Rare objects have appeared more bizarre than the James Webb Space Telescope.

JWST was compared to large slices of honeycomb balanced on silver wrappers. It looks a lot like a primary school science project, even the illustrations.

But in reality, that ‘honeycomb’ is a golden mirror more than 21ft across — the largest mirror on the largest telescope ever sent into space — while the silver foil is a sunshield the size of a tennis court.

At 25 years and nearly $10 billion (£7.6 billion) in the making, it is the product of intensive research and design by 10,000 astrophysicists, engineers and chemists, many of them British, over the course of 40 million ‘build hours’.

This telescope has endured delays and ballooning cost that has eaten up so much of the budgets for other projects.

But as it is the most powerful space observatory ever built and will allow us to peer back billions of years into the cosmic Dark Ages — almost to the Big Bang — and find the first light that ever shone in the Universe, astronomers hope it will be worth the wait.

The JWST has been compared to a giant slice of honeycomb balancing on a sheaf of silver wrappers. And in illustrations it certainly looks like something from an over-imaginative primary school science project

JWST is often compared with a huge slice of honeycomb balanced on top of a sheaf silver wrappers. It looks a lot like a primary school science project, even the illustrations.

It will launch on December 22, if all goes according to plan, from Europe’s Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

It will be folded up in a origami-like fashion and carried to space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. After it has been placed in orbit one million miles above Earth, the instrument will start unfolding. It then takes six months to calibrate and test its instruments.

Once it is complete, the satellite will send 458 gigabits of data per day over a period of up to ten year. Its pictures are received by large radio antennae all around the globe and then relayed to Baltimore’s operations center.

Original plans for the project were made in mid-90s. They proved so ambitious, Nasa sought help from the European Space Agency.

Named after James E. Webb (former Nasa administrator), it almost fell prey to ‘cancelculture’ in this year’s election. His name was not retained after an internal investigation found no support for the accusations. He had been accused of complicity in discrimination against homosexual and lesbian persons in 1960s.

By circumventing Earth’s atmosphere, space telescopes enable scientists to see more stars, planets, and galaxies. In effect they are time machines. Because of the time it takes for light to reach Earth through deep space, you can see further back into the past.

All set: The James Webb ready for shipping to the launch site

Everything is ready: All done! The James Webb will be shipped to launch site

Scientists have relied on the Hubble Telescope since 1990, when it has been orbiting in space. It has made many remarkable discoveries including the discovery that almost all galaxies contain a black hole in their center.

The camera has captured stunning images, including the Pillars of Creation. These are plumes filled with interstellar gases and dust that form stars in the Eagle Nebula. They can be seen 7,000 light-years from Earth.

The new telescope is 15x wider than Hubble’s, has six times the light collection and is extremely sensitive to infrared.

When light emitted from galaxies or stars earliest in time reaches Earth’s telescope, it has been stretched so that it arrives infrared. It is visible to the naked eye.

To observe infra-red light the JWST must be kept very cold, so it will go much deeper into space than Hubble and maintain a tight orbit around a point where a balance of gravitational forces will allow it to stay in the same place — which is useful for communications with Mission Control.

The telescope’s sunshield splits it into two parts. Solar panels are located on the hot sides of the telescope. They generate electricity for control systems. The primary mirror contains an instruments module. This requires that it be kept at minus233c.

One of the most important unanswered questions regarding the Universe is about its early years, after the Big Bang 13.8billion years ago. JWST should have the ability to detect light that dates back at most 13.5 billion years.

Hubble launched with a single mirror that was crooked. This meant that the images sent back were very blurred when it returned. It was necessary to fix the problem by sending astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle.

Mission Control stargazers will hope that James Webb is spared a similar fate.