The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the most powerful space telescope ever constructed, blasted off in to space on Saturday from French Guiana in South America.
Built at a cost of $10 billion (Sh1.13 trillion) by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency(CSA) and nearly 30 years in the making, the space telescope is now on a month-long journey of 1.6 million kilometers, four times the distance beyond the Moon, where it will take up orbit 1.4 million kilometers from Earth at ‘Lagrange point 2’, where the Earth’s gravitational pull and that of the Sun balance each other out allowing the telescope to stay in a table position.
It will take a further five months for the telescope’s infrared panels to start scanning deep space.
Once its 18 hexagonal mirrors are unfolded the JWST will be able to look back in time some 13.7 billion years to near the start of the universe known as the ‘Big Bang’ where it may find out how the first galaxies were formed and perhaps discover more planets that could host other life forms.
Malindi Space Station Picks Up First Signals
It wasn’t however, a NASA or European Space Agency telescope that picked up the first signals from the JWST but rather Kenya’s (but Italian owned) Malindi Space Station via its 10-meter antenna, twenty-three minutes after launch, forming the first contact between it and observers.
Part of the European Space Agency’s Estrack network, the Malindi Space Station, also called the Luigi Brogolio Space Centre (BSC) was first developed 60 years ago.
The JWST is about 100 times more powerful than the telescope it is due to replace, the famous Hubble Space Telescope.