NASA's new space telescope will be traveling nearly 1,000,000 miles (11.6 million km) from Earth in 29 days. This is according to the agency in a YouTube video.
The video, "29 Days on Edge", was released Monday (Oct.18). It details the expected journey and 50 deployments that the James Webb Space Telescope will make after its launch on Dec. 18.
Over the years, the telescope has been delayed by technology problems, the coronavirus pandemic, and other factors. There will also be significant obstacles to overcome once the telescope launches.
"We have 300 single point failure items and they have to all work correctly. Greg Robinson, Webb's program director, says that if you are a million miles away from the Earth you cannot send someone to fix it.
Webb will be able to pass the test and begin making observations that could change our understanding of space. NASA officials stated that scientists will use the telescope to study the early stages of the universe and the nature and atmospheres of distant exoplanets among other tasks.
Related: Building The James Webb Space Telescope (gallery).
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is seen in a cleanroom at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) in October 2021. Dec. 18 is the date for launch. (Image credit NASA/Chris Gunn
Webb has to overcome many technological hurdles in the new video, which is nine minutes long. Webb's mirror, which measures 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) in length, is designed to fold like origami during launch. This mirror must fit within the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket's payload fairing. Space is far more conducive to the unfolding of events than direct human intervention.
The Ariane 5 must perform its duties on Dec. 18. Webb's thrusters also need to work correctly, especially 12 hours after liftoff. They're expected fire up and launch Webb towards deep space. Webb will travel along the solar wind or the continuous stream of particles from the sun. The telescope will then unfold a "trim tab", which will ensure stability.
Webb will need to unravel a complex sunshield array that is tennis court-sized. It has 140 release mechanisms and 70 hinge assemblies. There are also 400 pulleys and 90 cables. NASA states in the video that the deployment motors have 8 deployment motors. They also have springs and gears. To get the sunshield unrolled, Webb will need all of these components to work properly.
NASA claims that Webb will benefit from its decades of project management and training, but NASA insists it won't forget about the complex operations. Amy Lo, Webb deputydirector for vehicle engineering, says that the first two weeks following launch will be similar to our Super Bowl or World Cup. These moments are the culmination of years of training.