NASA’s Webb Telescope Launches to See First Galaxies, Distant Worlds


Editor’s note: This release was updated on Dec. 25 to reflect the observatory’s release at approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometers).

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched at 7:20 a.m. EST Saturday on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

A joint effort with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb observatory is NASA’s revolutionary flagship mission to seek the light from the first galaxies in the early universe and to explore our own solar system, as well as planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets. 

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched Dec. 25 at 7:20 a.m. EST on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched Dec. 25 at 7:20 a.m. EST on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America. Webb, a partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

“The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel us forward into the future,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our universe. I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”

Ground teams began receiving telemetry data from Webb about five minutes after launch. The Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket performed as expected, separating from the observatory 27 minutes into the flight. The observatory was released at an altitude of approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometers). Approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb unfolded its solar array, and mission managers confirmed that the solar array was providing power to the observatory. After solar array deployment, mission operators will establish a communications link with the observatory via the Malindi ground station in Kenya, and ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will send the first commands to the spacecraft.

Engineers and ground controllers will conduct the first of three mid-course correction burns about 12 hours and 30 minutes after launch, firing Webb’s thrusters to maneuver the spacecraft on an optimal trajectory toward its destination in orbit about 1 million miles from Earth.

“I want to congratulate the team on this incredible achievement – Webb’s launch marks a significant moment not only for NASA, but for thousands of people worldwide who dedicated their time and talent to this mission over the years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Webb’s scientific promise is now closer than it ever has been. We are poised on the edge of a truly exciting time of discovery, of things we’ve never before seen or imagined.”

The world’s largest and most complex space science observatory will now begin six months of commissioning in space. At the end of commissioning, Webb will deliver its first images. Webb carries four state-of-the-art science instruments with highly sensitive infrared detectors of unprecedented resolution. Webb will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity than ever before. The premier mission is the scientific successor to NASA’s iconic Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, built to complement and further the scientific discoveries of these and other missions.

“The launch of the Webb Space Telescope is a pivotal moment – this is just the beginning for the Webb mission,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters. “Now we will watch Webb’s highly anticipated and critical 29 days on the edge. When the spacecraft unfurls in space, Webb will undergo the most difficult and complex deployment sequence ever attempted in space. Once commissioning is complete, we will see awe-inspiring images that will capture our imagination.”

The telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, to everything in between. Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.

NASA Headquarters oversees the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages Webb for the agency and oversees work on the mission performed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Northrop Grumman, and other mission partners. In addition to Goddard, several NASA centers contributed to the project, including the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and others.

For more information about the Webb mission, visit:

Additional Webb Resources:


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Tom Halla
December 25, 2021 2:19 pm

I have seen reporting that Webb is to go to L2, rather than Earth orbit as such.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 25, 2021 2:28 pm

It is L2, Gaia is already there, WMAP and Planck were there. The 5 Lagrange points are getting overcrowded!
Strangely all of this is already at :

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 25, 2021 7:09 pm

An object orbiting at L2 is still in Earth orbit.

Reply to  Intelligent Dasein
December 26, 2021 3:43 am

It is in three orbits simultaneously:
Halo (smallest), the Earth’s (medium) and Solar (largest). Getting and staying there is relatively simple, but surveying a fixed patch of Universe requires continuous correction of orientation.

Reply to  Vuk
December 26, 2021 4:04 am

one more animation of L2 orbit complexity
why use L2 orbit, see here

Reply to  Vuk
December 27, 2021 10:42 am

Actually JWST is placed also what’s referred to as a Halo orbit about the mathematically exact L2 point. L1, L2 are unstable orbital points, in that you are parked at a gravity “crest” were minor perturbations to either side will cause greater forces away from the point. So the orbital pattern is placed slightly elliptically to the Sun/earth center. Due to orbital mechanics as the object moves slower as the radius grows to an observer sitting at the exact L2 point it would appear as though the spacecraft was flying higher but slowing down as it passes over head only to dive down below and behind (closer to the sun) while speeding up to pass you in front only to slow again as it climbs. The exact same way any craft approaches the ISS.
To further improve communications so that the moon isn’t sometimes blocking LOS, JWST’s halo is inclined relative to the ecliptic. Hence the wiggled lobed orbital path.

M Courtney
December 25, 2021 2:24 pm

This story was just reported on BBC News 24 at 22:15ish, Christmas Day.
They had an expert on to discuss what it meant.
The BBC identified the expert as an “Astrologer”.

Truly terrible science coverage on the BBC.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  M Courtney
December 25, 2021 3:04 pm

Heck, they’re lucky it wasn’t “the wrong guy”!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  M Courtney
December 25, 2021 4:43 pm

next, the BBC will have a climate story and introduce its guest as a climastrologer

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  M Courtney
December 25, 2021 5:48 pm

Just remember how bad their science reporting is the next time you see one of their climate stories.

Rud Istvan
December 25, 2021 2:27 pm

Not time to celebrate yet. Got to reach L2 and unfurl, including the large and complicated 5 layer solar shield. Else no good infrared images.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 25, 2021 3:19 pm

I admit to picking at nits here, but all of the unfurling, and mirror deployment happens prior to reaching L2. NASA has a good web page showing the deployment sequence here.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 26, 2021 5:12 am

Some information regarding the design and construction:

“Insane engineering of the James Webb telescope”

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 27, 2021 10:03 am

Rud, I was on the relatively small team that assembled and tested deployment mechanisms, mirror arrays, sunscreen shields, etc. One of my colleagues calls it “344 single points of failure”. I have first hand knowledge on the delicate nature of the beastie. I have about a month of anxious waiting to see if my assemblies work as designed. If you wish to be pedantic I am a rocket Engineer (a bit harder than rocket science). We can calculate the orbital trajectories … and design a machine that will accomplish those tasks.

Deployment in 0g is a bit different than testing here on earth. Although we attempt to offload forces to allow the delicate mechanisms to deploy gracefully, gravity still plays a role during even minor vibrations and cable deployments. Much of the specialized equipment was more complicated than the flight article itself.
Interestingly the shipping container that carried the delicate cargo to Guiana was far more complicated than the rocket payload segment into which it was placed.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 27, 2021 10:24 am

I’ve seen several of these videos as some friend is always asking which guy is me crawling around the high bay in our “bunny suits”. My office was on the 2nd floor (90 ft up) of the building shown in the assembly/test phases. The camera people were a bit of a nuisance, but serve a vital purpose.

I cringe at several point during the narrations as they get some wrong.
It is far more taxing to transport the article to the test site than launch it to L2. It traveled by truck, rail, and barge. ALL OF WHICH impart far more forces than launching…all whilst under corrosive atmospheres and wild temperature fluctuations.

Alex Mentes
December 25, 2021 2:33 pm

Just curious, why is the EU space launch facility in South America?

Smart Rock
Reply to  Alex Mentes
December 25, 2021 9:31 pm

Close to the equator

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Smart Rock
December 26, 2021 4:06 am

And close to an ocean such that launches can head Eastward over unpopulated areas

Reply to  Alex Mentes
December 26, 2021 5:42 am

French Guiana is a French Colony and as such is a part of France. France is a member of the EU so French Guiana is also part of the EU.

Reply to  Martin
December 27, 2021 8:42 am

No; it was a French colony. It is a ‘département d’Outre-Mer’ (oversea department) since 1946.

Of course, this is the official version. For many people born and living there, their homeland still is a colony…

Stephen Skinner
December 25, 2021 3:03 pm

What if the Hubble, Spitzer and Webb telescopes were coordinated to collect observations simultaneously? What if they were coordinated to work with telescopes on earth?

Reply to  Stephen Skinner
December 25, 2021 3:27 pm

More interesting is Gamma Ray and Optical coordination as in Gamma Ray Bursts.
That was actually done around 2011 with Fermi/LAT in Gamma, and another in UV or visible to check Double Relativity or Disordered Locality, problems in Quantum Gravity.

An echo effect was difficult to confirm. So it could be someone somewhere will try this again with WEBB. An extremely red-shifted GRB could be a gold mine….

December 25, 2021 3:40 pm

Going to look like every other galaxy.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  bluecat57
December 25, 2021 4:49 pm

reminds me of how I spent a couple of years back in the ‘ 70s debating with a friend who went to the dark side of creationism- I threw everything I had at him- got no where- I even went to a college library so I could buy every geology book in the store – and read them- still no luck- it all bounced off him- just like now happens when using reason with anyone addicted to the fantasy of “climate science” and its priesthood, like Micky Mann

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 25, 2021 5:16 pm

Been there. My mistake is the fool’s errand … that they are as interested in facts and science as I am. I just did it again last night (tried to reason with a guy who believes in giants from the past). He’d never heard of the square-cube law … and didn’t want to know. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Happy Christmas and Season’s Greetings.

Reply to  Rory Forbes
December 25, 2021 7:23 pm

Maybe you should share this with your giants guy. Looks like those crazy Creationist Christians have heard of the square-cube law and apply it to the giants in the Bible.

And do note that while I read articles almost daily in which secular scientists are “shocked” by their findings, I seldom read about scientists who base their worldview on the Bible being surprised. Not even when secular science supports what the Bible says.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 1:28 am

I notice that your “giants and the bible” link states that a 18 foot tall giant would weigh “3,500 pounds, his bones would be crushed with every step”. That sounds very scientific, but then, I wonder, how did that big carnivore, the T. Rex, manage to evolve so large, in an earlier era? I mean they had bones, didn’t they, yet I’ve seen numbers to indicate that some of them stood as tall as, well, you know, 18 feet!

Anyhow, there is a mythical fascination with giant humans that probably has more to do with the need to tell a good story, than with any true prospect of really tall humans? Of course, on the ape side of things, there used to be such a thing as a ‘gigantopithecus’, 3 meters tall (or over 9 feet tall), see .

Reply to  David Blenkinsop
December 26, 2021 5:22 am

Ah, a “straw man” argument. How clever.

But apparently you didn’t bother to read the article. I’ll give you a second chance.

It is not that long, but here is a bit you might have missed.

“and then the paleontologists realized that the ones that remained lost weight, big time! For example, instead of Brachiosaurus weighing 80 tons, it is now carefully calculated to have weighed about 23 tons.” (, I’m pretty sure that is a SECULAR source and SECULAR research, but apparently YOU don’t “believe” the facts.)

That’s from just the third paragraph.

And then you can explain, using YOUR science, how DNA survives for billions of years.

I’ll just sit here waiting for your reply.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 2:58 am

I suggest you get a few geology books and read them carefully. When I was exposed to The Creation Institute (in Texas) in the ’70s, I had not taken a geology course. I read their stuff- and they used geology terminology- seemed pretty sophisticated- then I realize I should look at real geology text books- and then it dawned on my that those who wrote for The Creation Institute twisted around geology science- though to the unsophisticated, it sound similar. It was obvious that those writing for the Institute knew very well that they were faking it. The real geology text books made more sense if you followed the logic.

One day I went to my fundamentalist friend’s church to listen to a speaker discuss how the Grand Canyon formed after the Great Flood. They guy was handsome and charming. He said, with a straight face, that as the flood retreated, the various layers of rock formed. His fantasy made perfect sense if you had no understanding of real geology. Once I read all those geology books and went out and looked at the world- all over America- the real geology made perfect sense and the creationist vision of geology was absurd.

I think the climatistas want the world to think that skeptics of climate catastrophe are as out of touch as those who believe in that phony geology- except they’re wrong- the climate skepticism actually makes far more sense than climate catastrophism. It’s a brilliant ploy for the climatistas to win the battle- paint the skeptics as the crazy ones. Nobody has ever tried to stop “crazy geology” but the climatistas try very hard to prevent climate crisis skepticism from being seen by anyone. There is billions of dollars at stake for the “clean and green” energy crowd and its priesthood in academia and government. I think some actually believe this new religion but many go along out of supreme ignorance while many know better and just like the money. And of course many are just terrified of losing their careers if they don’t sing the party line.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 26, 2021 5:14 am

You are suggesting I read books I’ve already read.

You and I are of the same vintage, so you witnessed Mt. St. Helens first-hand. But I bet you have never bothered to ask and find out what happened in the years after the devastation.

I suggest you read a book that ANSWERS questions such as “Why are we seeing this?” and PREDICTS what will be found and whose predictions HAVE been shown to be accurate by “real” scientists.

In the Beginning: COMPELLING EVIDENCE FOR CREATION AND THE FLOOD by Walt Brown, Ph.D. – The book is available online for free and I believe you can cheat and watch the videos for free as well.

Note too that all those “Christian” scientists have their doctorates from secular universities. The same goes for those at The Creation Institute, Answers in Genesis, and many other science organizations that are staffed with Christians.

They use the SAME scientific research as your “real” geologists since they don’t receive BILLIONS of dollars from governments. Your “real” geologists have presuppositions about things (and if you don’t believe that then you are fooling yourself). Christian scientists are just more open about their presuppositions.

Then come back and tell me where Walt Brown is wrong based on CURRENT science not your 50-year old geology books. Every week in my news feed I read articles about shocked, surprised, and baffled geologists and other scientists. Seems to me that in many fields of science they are finding out that they really don’t know much. Yes, what they BELIEVE they know “works” but mostly because they are close not because they have THE answer.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 25, 2021 5:21 pm

You obviously didn’t bother to read a word on the page I posted. Dozens of accurate, documented predictions shown to be correct by YOUR secular science.
You are the one that FACTS are bouncing off of.

Reply to  bluecat57
December 25, 2021 5:35 pm

Recommend you watch the Life of Brian … a lot.

Reply to  WXcycles
December 25, 2021 5:58 pm

Why? You don’t like it when YOUR scientific facts destroy your unfounded feelings?

Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 6:11 am

Your links are empty of scientific facts.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 7:47 am

You wouldn’t know a scientific fact if it hit you in the face. All of those links lead to secular science resources.
You apparently believe in scientism not science.
Come back and apologize when you actually read the science sources that the links take you to.

Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 12:03 pm

Immediate ad hominems.
Typical leftist projecting.

I followed the first link. I am not following link chains from alleging some scientist was surprised.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 12:51 pm

You are so stupid. You don’t even know what those words mean. Stop wasting our time on this blog. Go party with your sycophants.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 8:05 am

And after you’ve actually read the science research, please cite specifically what us incorrect.

Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 6:10 am

Your link(s) provide nothing of the sort.

They read like the National Enquirer with a similar level of fact.

Nothing is proven on at that link, only alleged to shock some scientist. Your link is falsified right from the first absurd claims.

Secular science requires direct observation, measurement, verification and replication. Alleging someone is shocked provides none of these.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 7:48 am

You are wrong, try following the links within the articles that take you to the science facts that are being written about.

Reply to  bluecat57
December 26, 2021 12:04 pm


Chase your own links to links…

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 12:50 pm

So, because you believe I’m wrong you won’t bother to become better informed. I won’t waste my time with you because you can’t fix stupid. Bye stupid.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 26, 2021 5:57 am

I did that too.

Back in the early 1970s, I tried to explain how molecules work to a Born Again Christian…
According to the BAC, only God could put iron into mankind.

Plus she made a number of claims regarding all powerful being verification and validation. e.g.; the “Dead Sea Scrolls” were identical to the bible.

To which, I pointed out the Dead Sea Scrolls were barely translated at the time and that little bit was rarely shared with the public.
Plus, those translations might match some Jewish Torah Writings, they did not match much in the King James Old Testament.

The sudden scream was alarming in the cafeteria where we were. You’d think I tried to kill her.
I was accused of heresy. No identification of exactly was heretical, just her loud very public pronunciation that I was a heretic going to H_–.

I’ve never bothered trying to argue with a zealot since. Especially zealots arguing hearsay based upon some self appointed religious preacher pulpit announcements.

Several discussions here, with evasive devious circular strawman spouting commenters, remind me that arguing with zealots is pointless. Whether the zealot is paid or unpaid.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 6:06 am

Though I’m an atheist- I respect those with “Christian principles” and the 10 commandments. I would think a truly spiritual person of any persuasion would never yell at anyone that they’re going to hell. It’s why I now compare religious fundamentalists with the climatistas- who say the Earth will soon be hell if we don’t give up all fossil fuels. They really are just as crazy.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 26, 2021 12:18 pm

Those who are truly religious rarely engage in confrontation over ideas or semantics.

  • They treat others courteously.
  • They listen.
  • They state their position clearly without hype.
  • They do not sling ad hominems or badmouth anyone.
  • They do not threaten.
  • They are not superior, condescending or patronizing.
  • And they accept you for what you are, not according to some zealot notion.

It is not my position to challenge anyone’s notion of god, heaven or no-god.

My notion of a supreme being is that they must have more important matters than humans on their todo lists.
Evidenced by the fact that over modern human history, they’ve done very little to seriously help/educate humans.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 2:38 pm

Those who are truly religious rarely engage in confrontation over ideas or semantics.

I don’t understand what those who are confrontational hope to achieve. It never results in winning anyone over to your point of view. More often, it pushes people away.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 26, 2021 6:25 am

I’m not taking a pro-creationist stand (I’m not that), but this calls out for a comment: “ I pointed out the Dead Sea Scrolls were barely translated at the time.” Totally irrelevant. The thing to compare is the original Hebrew text, and wrt this, your BAC was more right: the DSS and the extant (mostly medieval) Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament (= Jewish Bible) are in fact largely (not completely) identical. Where they differ, the meaning in the DSS is sometimes more like the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew done in the late BC era). FWIW, the translators of the Authorized (= King James) Version acknowledged looking to the Septuagint for clarification.

Reply to  mcswell
December 26, 2021 1:56 pm

Totally irrelevant”

No. Completely relevant.
At that time, unless you were one of the approved holders of dead sea scroll scraps, no one had translations or even Hebrew transcriptions.

Making any claims for comparison fictional.

There are differences in a number of the texts. All are minor differences confined to a Hebrew letter and only a few letters maximum affected in any scroll.
A rather astonishing achievement over 2,000 years.

“differ, the meaning in the DSS is sometimes more like the Septuagint”

Ah, no!
The meaning of certain words may change over time, that’s philology.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are in Hebrew. No real change of meaning to modern Hebrew.
Hebrew has never been a dead language, but rigorously used and maintained by a living populace.

As for the Septuagint:

there is no such thing as “the Septuagint.” If you own a modern copy of the Septuagint (e.g., Rahlfs or Brenton editions), it is an “eclectic” edition, that is, a collection of the best and most reliable Greek manuscripts reconstructed to approximate the original translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek.”

There is no one version of the Septuagint!
The original Septuagint was translated by by groups of Jewish Scholars over a few years. Without the Jewish tradition of strict adherence and rigor regarding how to copy the texts forward.

Meaning that by the time of the Maccabean revolt, there were many versions of a Septuagint and likely many changes in meanings.

Evidenced by minimal errors over 2,000 years, the Jewish Sofer process for copying and validating Torah is an incredible process. Even then, for many Dead Sea Scrolls, the skill and training of an author are unknown. Many are likely written by trainees.

There are no modern translations that match the meaning in the original oral Hebrew. Including most translations contained in bi-lingual copies of the Pentateuch or Torah.

There are a couple of translations that attempt to translate the paced cadence and word play of Hebrew’s original oral tradition, including poetry inherent in oral tradition..

and the extant (mostly medieval) Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament”

You do understand what the word medieval means, right? And when? A.D. 500 to about 1500?

The Hebrew Torah comes as a single scroll.
The Talmud represents many manuscripts, but they provide depth to the Torah writings and help explain the context, not replace the Torah.

Jon R
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 26, 2021 9:59 am

Whatever your idea is from the books is likely just as significantly wrong.

Nick Haag
December 26, 2021 1:50 am

I hope they’ve not mixed up metric and Imperial again.

Reply to  Nick Haag
December 27, 2021 10:26 am

NOPE. We make mistakes, but never the same ones twice!

Thomas Gasloli
December 26, 2021 11:29 am

We can’t see “awe inspiring images” in infrared; they will need to be altered images of infrared images.

December 26, 2021 12:20 pm

“help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it”……as far as I can tell we have no place in the origins of the universe except that I’m think we should be grateful the universe had origins ….. perhaps we are the reason the universe originated ? …. If so, perhaps we are missing something special about human beings?

December 26, 2021 1:58 pm

The US Space Telescope Fleet has been officially named the “Chelsea’s Daddy Fleet,” Webb and Hubbell.

December 28, 2021 10:29 am

Webb will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity than ever before.

Yay – an IR space telescope to look at stars and things far, far away. They must emit a lot of IR radiation to allow us to detect them by IR all the way across the universe.

But wait a minute – in our global warming catechism we were taught that suns like ours don’t emit IR. They emit only in the visible range corresponding with their surface temperature. That’s why IR is not blocked on its way in – there isn’t any – only blocked on the way out from earth surface thermal emissions.

So the Webb telescope won’t see anything, right? Since start don’t emit IR.

But if stars do emit IR, it means that CO2 in the atmosphere will expel incoming solar IR, meaning that CO2 decreases incident TSI (total solar irradiation) – that means a cooling effect.

Huh! That wasn’t in the catechism.

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