On October 12th, the James Webb Space Telescope moved one step closer to its final destination, arriving safely in Kourou, French Guiana, from where it will soon be launched into space. Its journey began in California, where the telescope, folded into its stowed configuration, was transported from the Northrop Grumman laboratories through the streets of Los Angeles to the Naval Weapons Station at Seal Beach. Webb was then loaded onto the MN Colibri, a French cargo ship that has previously transported satellites and space flight equipment to Kourou. The MN Colibri left Seal Beach on September 26th and entered the Panama Canal on October 5th bound for Kourou.
Webb’s 16-day, 9,000+ kilometre sea voyage took place under a veil of secrecy given the concern about potential pirates who might have interfered with the transport of the impressive observatory. But fortunately, the journey was uneventful!
“Webb’s arrival at the launch site is a momentous occasion,” said Gregory Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters. “We are very excited to finally send the world’s next great observatory into deep space. Webb has crossed the country and traveled by sea. Now it will take its ultimate journey by rocket one million miles from Earth, to capture stunning images of the first galaxies in the early universe that are certain to transform our understanding of our place in the cosmos.”
A team of engineers and scientists then traveled to the Guaiana Space Centre to carry out final checks on Webb and prepare it for launch. This work is well underway, and the telescope is on track to be launched on schedule on December 18th. Another very important milestone on Webb’s road to space was also recently reached: the last Ariane 5 launch before Webb’s was successfully completed on October 23rd from Kourou. The entire international Webb team, including iREx members, are excited about Webb’s last earthly moments. Next stop: L2, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth!