NASA’s revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope has reached the final orbit in space on Tuesday, after a month of space travel. A joint effort with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency, the Webb mission was launched on December 25.
At 2 pm EST on Tuesday, Webb fired its onboard thrusters for nearly five minutes (297 seconds) to complete the final post-launch course correction to its trajectory, the space agency said.
This mid-course correction burn inserted Webb toward its final orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth. The final mid-course burn added only about 3.6 miles per hour (1.6 metres per second) – a mere walking pace – to Webb`s speed, which was all that was needed to send it to its preferred “halo” orbit around the L2 point.
“Webb, welcome home!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a statement.
“Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb`s safe arrival at L2 today. We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!” he added.
Webb’s orbit will allow it a wide view of the cosmos at any given moment, as well as the opportunity for its telescope optics and scientific instruments to get cold enough to function and perform optimal science.
“During the past month, JWST has achieved amazing success and is a tribute to all the folks who spent many years and even decades to ensure mission success,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“We are now on the verge of aligning the mirrors, instrument activation and commissioning, and the start of wondrous and astonishing discoveries.”
As of now, Webb’s primary mirror segments and secondary mirror have been deployed from their launch positions, now engineers will begin the sophisticated three-month process of aligning the telescope’s optics to nearly nanometer precision, NASA said.
The team aims to start regular science operations six months after launch, by June.
The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope will explore every phase of cosmic history — from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.