JWST is about 950k km out in the 11th day of its 30 day travel to the L2 point.
Things are going exceedingly well, like these folks had planned this for 30 years or something.
The sunshade has been completely deployed and tensioned. That was a big nail biter that just seemed to easily unfurl and straighten itself out. Again, it was as if someone planned it that way.
Actually because of the Ariane 5 launch being so near perfect the controllers had extra time to go through all the release mechanisms again, like all 107 of them, to make sure everything was ready for unfolding. Then they took extra time to unfold and verify each step.
But this was all planned, right?
Of course, but no one really expected to be using the “best case scenario” checklist.
The blessings come from the performance of the ESA’s Ariane 5 rocket. The launch was as near perfect to the perfect launch window for JWST as to allow the initial rotation of the scope, deployment of the solar array and the switch from battery to internal power to happen much sooner that normally expected.
The Ariane 5 also put JWST on its orbital path so precisely that the required initial correction burns using the scope’s own thrusters were cut in duration, by more than half. That’s going to leave a lot more fuel in the tank. I haven’t seen NASA’s official numbers but the internet nerds are talking the 5-to-10 year thruster life of JWST has just been extended by at least another 5-10 years. A lot more science.
I want to be optimistic. Things are going exceptionally well. Kudos to the planners, the engineers, the ones that are doing this thing. I can be quite optimistic about the human components seeing as how things have progressed. With the hopes for this scope growing ever stronger as each hurdle is crossed I dread the other shoe. Is it going to drop?
[aside] Waiting for the other shoe to drop is an American idiom for waiting for disaster to strike.
I fear being ghosted by JWST. That and a thousand other billiards table, bullet range, blast a grain of sand through the heart of my optic processors, scenarios. I am a seething mass of existential dread.
I am interested to see if the Webb images will be as visually stunning as so many Hubble images. Hubble can point in almost any direction except close to the sun. Webb is a lot more limited because it has to maintain sun-shielding at all points in its orbit around L2, but Holy Crap, the light sensitivity and the resolution increase by orders of magnitude!!!
This is the most exciting joint human achievement, maybe in my lifetime!
We are going to see lots and lots and LOTS of things and events that have never been imaged before!
We are going to confirm or rejects thousands of hypotheses in astrophysics and cosmology!
It's done. The mirror is full open and is going through hours of tight lockdown procedures.
All the hard engineering points are done. Lots of tests/failure points remain on the mirror actuators, alignment, optics and what the internet nerds are calling a gentle nudge into the L2 gravity anomaly by the onboard thrusters. Then we get to go through more tests and more tests while we wait for the scope to cool down.
Thermal equilibrium, a major requirement for scope operation, will take many months to achieve. The goal is 40o Klevin (-230oC) over the entire scope. They need to squeeze every last drop of heat they can from the thing and, down that area of the scale, trying to getting lower is a long, long process as what little heat there is needs time to slowly leak, photon by photon, into space. It's going to be a while before it's ready.