It’s not easy to get from California through the Panama Canal to the world’s largest space telescope and all the way to French Guiana for launch.
The James Webb Space Telescope arrived in French Guiana on Tuesday after a 16-day voyage that included a large truck, a barge, a ship and a voyage through the Panama Canal. It will launch into space from this destination in South America. NASA has now given us a behind-the-scenes look at the epic shipping process.
The JWST traveled to NASA after being packaged in a giant special container called a “suitcase,” formally known as the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea. “This custom container was designed for any extreme or unforeseen conditions that Webb might encounter during the journey,” NASA said in a statement Tuesday.
Suitcases will never be fixed as a carry-on. Stars clocks in at 168,000 pounds (76,000 kg) and stands 110 feet (33.5 m) tall. The JWST is folded like an origami to fit inside and prepare it for its final launch.
A NASA video shows efforts made to encase the observatory in its suitcase at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in California and then take it to the dock on Sept. 24. The transport team also checked for potholes along the way to ensure the sensitive telescope. Do not panic.
A second video shows the complex process of getting the telescope to a cargo ship that will carry it through the Panama Canal. The shipping route was planned to avoid rough waters.
JWST is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.After years of delay. Although it is now closer to its final Earth destination, it will still have to go through a few months of preparation before launching.
JWST is packed with next-generation technology that will help it look into the past and probe the origins of our universe. If all goes well, it will start at the same time as, which still hangs despite several technical issues. JWST may be running late, but the launch is finally in sight.