NASA's long-delayed James Webb telescope is finally assembled for the first time

Nearly a year after it was supposed to launch, NASA has finally assembled the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The government agency said the two halves of the telescope were joined earlier this week in Redondo Beach, Calif., where engineers used a crane to put the telescope together. The next step is to electrically connect the telescope and test it out.

“The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunshield and the spacecraft into one observatory represents an incredible achievement by the entire Webb team,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager in a statement.  “This milestone symbolizes the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals for over more than 20 years across NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, Northrop Grumman, and the rest of our industrial and academic partners.”

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope, with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that fold up around the telescope for launch, partially deployed to an open configuration to enable telescope installation. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope, with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that fold up around the telescope for launch, partially deployed to an open configuration to enable telescope installation. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted about the accomplishment, calling it a "major milestone."

The next steps for the telescope include engineers deploying the five-layer sunshield, which NASA said is "designed to keep Webb's mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, Moon and Sun." The space agency added that the deployment of the sunshield "is critical to mission success."

Following final testing, including environmental and deployment testing, the James Webb telescope will launch into space in 2021. The Hubble continues to allow incredible discoveries since its launch into space in April 1990.

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