And hey, it's only 14 years late!

Final Countdown

NASA has finally assigned an official launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope, the next generation orbital observatory that experts say will bring about a whole new era of astronomical observations and research.

The big day — which is about as official as any space mission that's already 14 years behind schedule can get — will be December 18, Agence France-Presse reports. It'll be a momentous occasion for astronomers at NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, all of which collaborated on the telescope, as it's expected to vastly improve the hunt for habitable, or even inhabited, alien worlds.

Overdue Upgrades

The Hubble Space Telescope still continues to facilitate groundbreaking discoveries. But astronomers' ambitions are now surpassing the 21-year-old telescope's capabilities.

That, plus the recent drama when the Hubble went offline for about a month this summer, suggest that it's time for scientists to get their hands on some new tools, making it all the more exciting that the James Webb is seemingly ready to launch at long last.

"Webb is an exemplary mission that signifies the epitome of perseverance," NASA's Webb program director Gregory Robinson said in a NASA announcement — spinning the project as eagerly awaited rather than horrifically behind schedule.

READ MORE: NASA's next space telescope to launch in December [Agence France-Presse]

More on the James Webb Space Telescope: Famed Physicist: Soon-To-Launch Telescope Likely To Discover Alien Life

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