Monday, August 10, 2020

NASA delays the launch of the James Webb Telescope, by seven months

NASA has again delayed the launch of its most powerful observatory telescope, the James Webb Telescope, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was set to fly in March of 2021, but now it is scheduled to fly on October 31, 2021.

The Government Accountability Office, or the GAO, had already predicted the same. NASA did an extensive review to find if it was possible for the fly of this massive telescope in March of 2021. NASA is currently following the norms of social distancing and other precautions that had to be followed to keep people safe from coronavirus, for about the next three months, which is also the reason behind this delay.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said during a press conference, “Much of the impact, of course, comes from people not being at work, right? Not touching the hardware or from having a reduced number of people available to do shifts.”

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COVID-19 cannot be completely blamed

The coronavirus pandemic cannot be completely blamed. NASA added two months to the schedule, thanks to the technical challenges which were experienced by Northrop Grumman, as it fixed the telescope together and conducted testing. NASA added an extra two months as there could be more problems between now and launch.

The James Webb Telescope (JWST), had faced many delays in its entire history. The observatory was first conceived in the 1990s and had cost for about $ 1 billion to $ 3.5 billion, and its launch date was set between 2007 and 2011.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the cost price has rapidly increased, and also the launch date has been delayed several times. In 2011, Congress replanned the entire project, which had a cost of $8 billion for development, and the launch date was 2018.

In 2018, NASA delayed the project again, saying that $8.8 billion was required for the project and the entire mission would cost $9.66 billion. That was when NASA set March 2021 as the launch date.

NASA currently is not planning on exceeding the budget further, not even with a new delay.

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The James Webb Telescope or JWST

The James Webb Telescope will be considered the most powerful space observatory ever built after it is launched. It is capable of peeking to when the universe first came into existence, 13.8 billion years ago.

The telescope is plated with a massive gold plated mirror of about 21 feet or 6.5 meters, which will gather light from distant reaches of the cosmos.

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