NASA launched the most expensive science probe ever James Webb Space Telescope to explore the earliest stars and galaxies.

Iran PressSci & Tech: In a mission more than two decades in the making, NASA launched the most expensive science probe ever built Saturday, a $10 billion telescope that will attempt to capture starlight from the first galaxies to be born in the fiery crucible of the Big Bang.

Billions over budget and years behind schedule, the James Webb Space Telescope finally got off the ground Christmas day, rocketing up from the European Space Agency's launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:20 am EST atop an Ariane 5 rocket, CBS News reported.

The European workhorse booster, built by Arianespace as part of ESA's contribution to the Webb project, put on a spectacular holiday show, racing away from its jungle launch site on the northeast coast of South America through a cloudy sky.

Accelerating through the sound barrier 47 seconds after liftoff, the Ariane 5 quickly climbed out of the thick lower atmosphere, shedding its two strap-on solid-fuel boosters along the way.

The first stage's single hydrogen-fueled Vulcain 2 engine shut down eight-and-a-half minutes after launch and the flight continued for another 16 minutes on the power of the rocket's cryogenic second stage.

Then, 27 minutes after launch, at an altitude of about 865 miles above the eastern coast of Africa, the James Webb Space Telescope was released to fly on its own, outward bound at more than 21,000 mph.

"Go, Webb!" a mission controller exclaimed as the team burst into applause.

Still folded up to fit inside the Ariane 5's nose cone, the observatory's single solar panel, critical to begin recharging the spacecraft's batteries, deployed on computer command about six minutes after separation. An onboard thruster is scheduled to fire Saturday night to fine-tune the trajectory.


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