An update on the James Webb Telescope

Austin Graft

More stories from Austin Graft

January 28, 2022

Photo Credit: NASA

A look at the James Webb telescope from the front. The large hexagonal primary mirror is seen here fully deployed, with the small secondary mirror in front and the sunshield underneath.

18 days. That’s all it takes to travel 770,000 miles away from Earth, at least for the James Webb Telescope. Hurtling precariously through space at 720 miles per hour towards L2 orbit and discoveries of immeasurable value.

The James Webb Telescope (JWT) has been fully deployed and is well on its way to L2 orbit, about a million miles from Earth.

According to NASA, JWT’s journey is about 82% complete, mainly due to JWT being fully deployed and ready for use. The only thing left between JWT and changing our universal view is 15,5500 miles.

That doesn’t mean the journey was easy, though. JWT has experienced a couple problems along the way, and may face more to come.

According to the BBC, each membrane on the telescope’s sun shield is thinner than a human hair, and can tear extremely easily. The sunshield was tested many times on land, but everything behaves differently in orbit.

The sunshield was slowly deployed over the course of eight days, and it was an extremely stressful time. A single tear or small hole could spell very bad news, due to the fact that astronauts can’t access JWT for repairs like they could for the Hubble.

Still, JWT has a bright future ahead, and a hand in illuminating our future here on Earth. Yet still, some might be inclined to think otherwise.

“In my opinion, it’s a good concept,” said junior Jack Van Norman. “But I feel we need to spend money on other necessities.”

According to Space.com, roughly 10 billion USD has been spent on JWT in over two decades, money that, according to some people, should’ve been spent on more important things. 

“[We need to] put more money towards the vaccine for bigger cities that are still getting hit hard with Covid,” Van Norman said. “Pay off national debts and things like that.”

Was it a waste? Only time will tell, and with it the determining discoveries of whether it was worth it or not.