The most powerful telescope to launch into space is finally set to take off on Christmas Day after another wind-blown delay.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is on the launch pad and is scheduled to take off between 12:20 p.m. and 12:52 p.m. UK time.
Controllers will have a half-hour window to launch the Ariane 5 rocket, which carries the telescope, but will target the very beginning of the period.
JWST follows in the footsteps of the Hubble Telescope as the next major space observatory.
Designed to answer unresolved questions about the universe, it will go back further than ever in time, 400 million years after the Big Bang, the British space agency said.
The launch was scheduled for Christmas Eve, but a forecast of high-level winds at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana forced it to be postponed until December 25.
Liftoff lasted for decades, with development of the telescope beginning in 1996.
Construction was completed in 2016 and the launch was originally scheduled for earlier in December 2021.
A number of setbacks, including a communication glitch and an incident requiring a series of additional checks on the telescope, pushed the date back.
But space agencies have now completed a readiness review of rocket and launch crews that have completed their final rehearsal.
Speaking at a European Space Agency (ESA) briefing, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen previously said Webb would be able to make groundbreaking discoveries in all areas of astronomy .
“We have a lot of questions about the origin of galaxies and stars and Webb can carry this promise to answer them, the possibility of answering such big questions, the type of civilization-wide questions, the ones that change not only what we know but how we think like humans, âhe said.
âQuestions about the origin of life keep us awake at night, and this is a question we have carried with us for millennia and we are beginning to answer with the powerful tools of science. “
JWST partners are ESA, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Scientists from Durham University are part of a team of 50 researchers from around the world participating in the Cosmos-Webb program, which will use JWST to study a patch of sky near the constellation Sextans.
Cosmologists will work to map dark matter around galaxies, with the goal of unraveling the secrets of the mysterious substance that makes up the majority of matter in the universe.