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NASA announces coverage for the launch of the historic James Webb Space Telescope (and why it’s such a big deal).

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NASA prelaunch, launch, and postlaunch coverage

NASA will provide coverage of prelaunch, launch, and postlaunch activities for the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful space science telescope. Webb is targeted to launch at 7:20 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 24, on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.

Live launch coverage in English will begin at 6 a.m. on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. The public can also watch live on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, and Daily Motion. NASA will hold a prelaunch media briefing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, and a postlaunch news conference approximately 30 minutes after the live launch broadcast ends on Friday, Dec. 24.

Why the James Webb Space Telescope is such a big deal

The Webb mission, an international partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, will success the Hubble telescope and will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within the solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between. It basically lets scientist peer back in time to the early beginning of our universe. It will do this with improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble.

The primary mirror of JWST, the Optical Telescope Element, consists of 18 hexagonal mirror segments made of gold-plated beryllium which combine to create a 6.5 m (21 ft) diameter mirror — considerably larger than Hubble’s 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in) mirror. Unlike the Hubble telescope, which observes in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared (0.1 to 1 μm) spectra, JWST will observe in a lower frequency range, from long-wavelength visible light through mid-infrared (0.6 to 28.3 μm), which will allow it to observe high redshift objects that are too old and too distant for Hubble to observe.

Development began in 1996 for a 2007 launch and a budget of $500 million. The project had numerous delays and cost overruns and underwent a major redesign in 2005. Construction was completed in 2016. Ultimately, the project cost an astonishing $10 billion dollars.