NASA is preparing to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit to begin exploring the universe. Recently, NASA announced that the telescope had arrived in French Guiana, where its launch site is located. The journey from the NASA facility to French Guiana was accomplished by ship spending 16 days at sea.
Webb journeyed 5800 miles from California, traveling through the Panama Canal before arriving at Port de Pariacabo on the northeastern coast of South America. The telescope was offloaded from the ship inside its custom-made shipping container before being driven to its launch site at the Europe Spaceport in Kourou, where it will be prepared for launch.
Once at the launch site, the telescope has a couple of months of operational preparations to undergo before it’s fitted to the Ariane 5 rocket that will push it into orbit on December 18. Once in orbit, the telescope will spend some time performing checkouts and fully deploying before it goes operational. The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint program led by NASA with participation from the ESA and Canadian space agencies.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson says that Webb will look backward in time, observing galaxies as they were 13 billion years ago viewing light created just after the Big Bang. The powerful telescope is essentially a time machine able to look at light that has spent billions of years traveling from its source to be viewable by astronomers on earth.
The process of packing the telescope away and fitting it into its custom shipping container took nearly a month. To protect the telescope as much as possible, its custom shipping container was environmentally controlled. On September 24, the telescope traveled by police escort for 26 miles through the streets of Los Angeles from the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, where it was loaded onto the cargo ship called MN Colibri.