After a nail-biting 29 days of travel and ultra-precise deployments, the James Webb Space Telescope fired its thrusters one more time Monday to reach its final parking spot a million miles from Earth.
"Webb, welcome home," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement after a five-minute burn added just 3.6 mph to the telescope's speed. "Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today."
L2 refers to a kind of stable orbit known as a Lagrange point. Technically, Webb is now orbiting the sun and is staying in line with Earth about a million miles away.
"We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer," Nelson said.
The arrival at L2 capped off a treacherous 29 days in which everyone involved in the $10 billion program — from scientists to NASA officials to companies involved in building the infrared telescope — readily admitted the technical challenges were daunting. Every single thing had to work perfectly in order to launch, deploy mirror segments, and reach its final position.
Mission partners NASA, the European Space Agency, and Canadian Space Agency described the process as "29 days on the edge." Officials before launch said there were potentially 344 points of failure during that period.
Moving forward, engineers will spend about three months aligning Webb's 18 gold-coated hexagonal mirrors to the final configuration.
Webb uses a massive, 21-foot primary mirror made up of hexagonal tiles to study the cosmos. Its main capability is infrared observation, meaning it will be able to peer through obstacles like dust clouds to see the early phases of star formation. Scientists even hope to see the atmospheric compositions of promising far-off planets.
Webb is the successor to Hubble Space Telescope, which revolutionized science with the Hubble Deep Field that famously captured thousands of galaxies in a single image.
Total cost to NASA: $10 billion over its 25-year development history, which doesn't include costs incurred by ESA and CSA. Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor for the project while Lockheed Martin built the main infrared instrument known as Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam.
The telescope took flight on Christmas Day with help from a European Ariane 5 rocket. The European Space Agency operates the liftoff site in French Guiana, a territory of France just north of Brazil.
Contact Emre Kelly on Twitter: @EmreKelly.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: NASA's James Webb telescope arrives at home 1 million miles from Earth