30 years and $10 billion later, the James Webb Space Telescope is finally on the launch pad

NASA and the astronomy community have poured $10 billion and more than two decades into just one piece of machinery. Now they are facing the moment of truth.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, also known as Webb or JWST, is finally in French Guiana, perched atop its rocket, ready to bid farewell to Earth and begin the long trek out to space. It has overcome loose screws, testing missteps, a Congressional cancellation, a pandemic and even the small risk of being hijacked by pirates on its way to the launch site. The project is so vast that it has shaped the agency as much as the agency has shaped it.