NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Primary Mirror into Place

** NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Primary Mirror into Place

The long-awaited deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope's (JWST) primary mirror was completed on Saturday, NASA reported, citing the European Space Agency's mission control center in French Guiana. The telescope's 18 gold-coated, beryllium mirrors stretch out to collect light from the universe, and the riskiest operation involving the deployment of the mirrors was considered the most challenging part of the observatory's initialization.

The world's largest and most powerful space science telescope recently launched on December 25, 2021, from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket. The telescope arrived at its final destination, orbiting the Sun about 1 million miles from Earth, on January 5, 2022.

"We have a telescope!" officials excled on Saturday, announcing the completion of the final stage of the mirror deployment process roughly three months after the telescope arrived in space. "This is it, we have passed the most risky part of Webb's deployment," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a live broadcast. "And what a remarkable journey it has been so far."

The primary mirror deployment involved 168 release mechanisms, and 127 miniature motors located on the back of the mirror, according to NASA. Each of the mirror's 18 segments has several servos and six actuators — or motors — that needed to successfully deploy in order for the mirror to be fully expanded.

"We've really packed this telescope with innovative engineering, and it's our job to test out those innovations in the real world," said Eric Smith, Webb's program director at NASA, in a statement. "With the successful deployment of the mirror system, we see the first fruits of all that work."

The telescope's mirror was folded up to fit inside the cargo bay of the Ariane 5 rocket for launch. After reaching space, the mirror's segments and backplane unfurled and locked into place. The mirror deployment was preceded by the successful unfolding and locking into place of the telescope's solar array, which provides the observatory with power, as well as the sail-like sunshield, which helps regulate the temperature of the spacecraft.

"We're excited to get our first images back on Earth," said Gregory L. Robinson, JWST's program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "But we're also looking forward to completing the rest of our work with the mirror."

Now, the approximately $10 billion observatory will undergo a multitude of tests and calibrations before it begins scientific operations this summer. The first images from the telescope are expected this summer, and those interested can vote on what should be the first target the telescope trains its eye on.

"We're thrilled with how well James Webb is doing, and we are excited about the missions yet to come," said Smith. "We've still got a lot of work to do, but the observatory is in great shape."

JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

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