NASA launches world's most powerful – and expensive – space telescope

Kourou, French Guiana - The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the most powerful ever built, was launched into space on Saturday to explore the oldest galaxies in the universe.

An artist's representation of the James Webb Space Telescope in space.
An artist's representation of the James Webb Space Telescope in space.  © IMAGO / UPI Photo

The telescope was built jointly by space agencies in Europe, the US and Canada, and its launch has been planned for decades.

Designed to answer questions about the universe, the telescope will
look further back in time than ever before to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

It was launched from the European spaceport Kourou in French Guiana on board an Ariane launch vehicle, for a four-week journey to its target orbit, a million miles away.

The launch was livestreamed on the NASA on website. As the rocket launched, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said "Lift-off, from a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe."

The first data and images from the telescope are not expected before summer.

At launch, NASA had identified 344 critical points in the mission that threatened the telescope's planned deployment.

The telescope took about 30 years to develop and cost some $10 billion. It is significantly more powerful than the Hubble telescope, which went into orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.

Cover photo: IMAGO / UPI Photo

More on the topic Space Travel: