James Webb Space Telescope to launch on Christmas Eve

JWST launch scheduled for 7:20 a.m. on Dec. 24

If scientists around the globe all asked for the same thing for Christmas, it looks like their wishes could come true after NASA confirms it's moving ahead with the launch of the long-awaited James Webb Space Telescope.

Webb's launch date has been in question after teams said they were working to resolve a communication issue between the spacecraft and its ride to space.

According to the mission's website, the massive space telescope will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket at 7:20 a.m. ET on Christmas Eve. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also confirmed the new launch time to The Associated Press.

The launch from French Guiana was previously planned for Dec. 22, but on Tuesday, NASA said it was targeting no earlier than Christmas Eve.

James Webb follows the impressive act of the Hubble Space Telescope but is much more powerful and will use infrared light. Hubble's successor, once in space, will be much further from Earth, about 1 million miles away.

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On Thursday, during a media call hosted by the European Space Agency, NASA Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen said teams working on the problem believed they had found the root.

"We believe they have found it, but the proof is in the pudding that the thing needs to go through the aliveness test successfully before we say we're done," Zurbuchen said.

Later in the day, Zurbuchen wrote in a tweet the connection issue had been resolved.

Since mid-October, Webb has been in French Guiana, awaiting liftoff to its new home 1 million miles from Earth. 

The $10 billion observatory with its 18-gold plated mirrors and a sun shield about the size of a tennis court has faced years of delays. Webb was built in the U.S. and underwent years of tests to prepare for the intensity of a rocket launch.

It will take about a month for Webb to reach its position in space and an additional six months before science operations can begin. All of Webb's instruments will be tested in space before observations start. 

Proposals from scientists from about 50 countries were selected to utilize Webb for its first year in space. 

The James Webb Space Telescope will peer deeper into the cosmos to unlock the secrets of the first galaxies.