NASA announced Wednesday that it will launch the James Webb Space Telescope on Dec. 18, the start of a 10-year mission that will provide the most detailed look yet at the history of the cosmos.
The space agency said the mission will extend beyond the discoveries of NASA's Hubble Telescope mission, with longer wavelengths that will allow Webb to look much closer at the beginning of time and hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies.
The Webb telescope recently passed its "rigorous testing regimen," which NASA considered a major turning point for the mission.
The Webb observatory is now sitting at Northrop Grumman facilities in southern California before it will be moved to French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America for launch from a French spaceport onboard an Ariane 5 rocket.
The mission is named for James Webb, who headed NASA during the early 1960s as the US was headed toward sending men to the moon for the first time.
The Webb mission is also partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
Webb's program director, Gregory L. Robinson, said: "Now that we have an observatory and a rocket ready for launch, I am looking forward to the big day and the amazing science to come."
NASA calls Webb's technology "revolutionary," with the ability to explore every phase of cosmic history "from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between."
"Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries," said NASA, "and help humankind understand the origins of the universe and our place in it."