NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
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The greatest cosmic observatory ever invented—originally known as the Next Generation Space Telescope—was first proposed in 1995 and was supposed to launch in 2007 at a cost of $500 million. Things didn’t quite work out that way. It was not until Christmas Day 2021 that the re-christened James Webb Space Telescope—named after a former NASA administrator—was launched, at a cost of a cool $10 billion. But the time and money have been worth it—with designers delivering on a promise to build a telescope able to look farther into space than any ever built before. Webb’s uniquely powerful infrared camera can peer into the universe’s infancy and has already returned a dazzling array of images, including a planet orbiting another star. The telescope, President Joe Biden said in July, after initial images were revealed, offers a “new window into the history of our universe.”

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Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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