NASA pushes back Webb Telescope launch to 2020

Updated 2018-03-28 13:48:02

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) decided to delay the launch of its next giant space telescope until at least May 2020, according to a statement it released on Tuesday.

"The James Webb Space Telescope is currently undergoing final integration and test phases that will require more time to ensure a successful mission," NASA said while revising the 2019 launch window to now target "approximately May 2020."

This is not the first time that NASA had postponed the highly-anticipated space telescope. First envisioned in 1996, Webb was originally expected between 2007 and 2011. However, due to budget issues, the launch was consistently delayed. Then in 2011, it was said to be set for 2018. In September 2017, Webb experienced another delay – to 2019 – and now comes another.

The public is, as can be imagined, disappointed. Among netizens' replies to NASA's latest "delay" tweet, some said they wondered if they would live to see the telescope finally in space, though there are still many who showed understanding and support.

While NASA is going through hard work with what it says will be "the premier observatory of the next decade," China has launched its first space telescope, the X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), also known as Insight, in June 2017. And it has not failed the public to say the least.

In October 2017, when scientists detected gravitational waves from a never-before-seen merger of two neutron stars, China's Insight was among the four telescopes from around the world which actually saw it at high frequency, and it even got one of the highest resolution images.

Meanwhile, Chinese scientists are designing a "Xuntian" space telescope with the same precision as the Hubble space telescope, which was launched by NASA in 1990, but with a field of view that is 300 times larger. The telescope is expected to launch around 2022 and will capture 40 percent of the space within 10 years, according to the chief engineer of China's manned space program.

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