NASA fully deploys new space telescope

The giant "golden eye" opened up flawlessly over the course of two weeks. It's now 600,000 miles away.


National News

January 8, 2022 - 6:40 PM

NASA James Webb Space Telescope Project Manager Bill Ochs, left, NASA James Webb Space Telescope Commissioning Manager John Durning, right, and others from the operations team celebrate after confirming that the observatory's final primary mirror wing successfully extended and locked into place at the Space Telescope Science Institute on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Baltimore. (Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images/TNS)

NASA opened a golden eye on the cosmos Saturday.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex of its kind, successfully completed its final deployment stage by opening its 21-foot gold-coated, flower-shaped mirror.

“Today, NASA achieved another engineering milestone decades in the making,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

“While the journey is not complete, I join the Webb team in breathing a little easier and imagining the future breakthroughs bound to inspire the world,” he added.

The $10 billion Webb Telescope will search for “light from the first galaxies” and discover the mysteries of our universe.

“Webb is designed to peer back over 13.5 billion years to capture infrared light from celestial objects, with much higher resolution than ever before, and to study our own solar system as well as distant worlds,” NASA said in a press release.

To accomplish that, scientists outfitted the telescope with the largest mirror ever to be launched into space, which has been dubbed the “golden eye.”

Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope on Nov. 2, 2016, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

The two wings of Webb’s primary mirror had to be folded to fit inside the rocket that took it into space. The unfolding process took two days, with the first side deployed on Friday.

Flight controllers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore began deploying the second side panel of the mirror at just before 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Only after the mirror was fully extended and latched into position, about four hours later, the team declared all major deployments successfully completed.

“The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA headquarters.

“This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space — a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world,” Robinson added.

The Webb mission is a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.