Take a sneak peak at NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

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Set to launch next year, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be the largest and most powerful ever built.

Set to launch in 2018, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be the largest and most powerful ever built. It will be the successor to the Hubble telescope and will look farther back in time to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.

Fully assembled, the Webb telescope is as tall as a three-story building, and its size will influence the kinds of observations it will make. Webb will find the very first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, answer fundamental questions about the evolution of the universe and help in the search for extraterrestrial life and habitable planets.

Webb's detectors can record extremely faint signals that will help scientists study planetary systems around other stars and could possibly determine if recently discovered Earth-sized planets could support life.

After rigorous testing at NASA's Goddard Space Center, the Webb telescope is one step closer to launch. Engineers spent months testing space hardware in vibration and acoustics test facilites to ensure Webb will withstand the ride into space.

Next, the Webb telescope will be shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for another important space environment test.

When it launches, the premiere space observatory will fold origami-style into an Ariane 5 rocket and deploy like a Transformer once in space. Webb will travel nearly one million miles away from Earth to its home orbit at the second Lagrange point, or L2.

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