What’s happening: Engineers on Earth Saturday unfurled the last segment of the telescope’s large, gold-coated primary mirror, marking the final major step in the risky deployment process that began after the JWST’s launch on Christmas Day.
What’s next: The telescope is continuing on its way out to a point about 1 million miles from Earth where it will conduct its science.
The JWST will perform a “mid-course correction burn” to keep it on track to get out to its perch shortly, and the telescope will start to align its mirrors for the sensitive science ahead, according to NASA.The telescope will also need to calibrate its instruments ahead of starting science operations later this year.
Why it matters: The $10 billion JWST is designed to peer into the atmospheres of distant alien worlds, capturing the light of some of the first galaxies and piecing together how stars evolve in clouds of dust.
“Today, NASA achieved another engineering milestone decades in the making. 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,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.