The James Webb Space Telescope: A Swiss Army Knife in Space

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The James Webb Telescope Successfully Launches Into Space

by Joe Spring/Smithsonianmag.com

In an incremental sign the universe rewards the diligent behavior and patience of astronomers out to study it, conditions cleared enough this Christmas morning for the launch of the biggest, most powerful and most expensive telescope ever.

At approximately 7:20 a.m. ET the James Webb Space Telescope, a scientific gift folded up and wrapped in a rocket, took off from its launch site in the South American country of French Guiana. The Christmas gift to the world will ditch its box and open up slowly on its own during a multi-step, month-long journey to its orbit in outer space.

More than a decade has passed since the telescope was first expected to launch, a delay accompanied by an escalating price tag that soared roughly $9 billion above budget. At one point, the U.S. House of Representatives even threatened to cancel the craft.

And this year alone, the telescope was delayed several times. But scientists say the investment in time and money will be worth the wait and cost, if the craft performs as expected.

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