The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become NASA’s latest and greatest space-based observatory, superseding the Hubble Space Telescope as the big eye that will peer through the seemingly-endless universe. But thus far, plans to launch the completed spacecraft into space keep getting delayed.
It was initially slated to launch by 2011 but was delayed to 2018, then later to 2020, and most recently, to 2021. As it would seem, budgeting and scheduling issues continue to push it back, and NASA engineers want to ensure everything is working correctly before sending it beyond the reach of maintenance specialists.
But therein lies the problem; the James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most complex space telescope ever devised, and that makes it challenging to get right the first time. Additionally, the hypersensitivity of its complicated instruments leaves a lot of margin for error, especially given how much of the technology onboard is brand new and not yet field-tested in space.
While there’s a lot of waiting to be done, the James Webb Space Telescope promises to become the most capable space observatory ever, opening our eyes to previously-unstudied regions of space and validating discoveries made by other observatories. With that in mind, getting things right on the first try is imperative, and that’s why NASA is taking its time.