2559: December 25th Launch
|December 25th Launch|
Title text: Update: Santa has been destroyed by the range safety officer.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by JWST: JUST WATCHED SANTA TERMINATED BY A RANGE SAFETY OFFICER NAMED GRINCH. What is a range safety officer? Even reading the wiki page still makes it unclear if this is a person or a system? - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. It has suffered many, many delays over its development period (as previously referenced in 2014: JWST Delays), but it finally launched on Christmas day, December 25, 2021.
This was about 7 hours after this comic appeared. The release day of this comic was Christmas Eve the 24th of December. As can be seen from when this page was created 05:02:00, 25 December 2021 (UTC), the comic came out at least 7 hours before launch which was 12:20:00, 25 December 2021 (UTC). Since Boston (Randall's home town) is 5 hours after UTC then the comic must have released close to midnight on the 24th for Randall, and clearly before midnight for the rest of the time zones in the US.
Web comics are usually drawn some time in advance. When this comic was drawn and scheduled for publication, it is possible NASA had not yet announced that the launch of JWST was slipping from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day.
In this comic, the James Webb Space Telescope is finally ready to take off. However, an unfortunate circumstance occurs: Santa Claus himself, presumably on his way to or from delivering presents to children, crosses into the path of the launch rocket. The joke is the implication that, right on the brink of success, this extraordinarily unlucky incident will either destroy the telescope, harm Santa, or cause yet another delay, much to Cueball's horror.
Real launch aborts have occurred with fewer than 2 seconds left in the countdown, causing delays of over a month.
According to the title text, the range safety officer has made the decision to shoot down Santa Claus's sleigh, in order to clear the sky above, protecting the launch window. This seems to demonstrate that they are determined not to let anything delay the launch any further (or that given a choice between destroying the telescope or destroying Santa, the range safety officer chooses the latter).
Airspace is normally closed to air traffic to avoid collisions between aircraft and rocket launches. While Santa might not know about such restrictions, he already knows about this particular launch because thousands of astronomy geeks have asked for a new space telescope as a Christmas present in their letters to Santa, and the easiest way for Santa to deliver such a present is just keeping a safe distance from the launch pad. Moreover NORAD tracks Santa's flying around the world and would be able to give sufficient warning to both Santa and Ground Control to prevent such a close encounter of a festive kind; as well as to prevent accidental global thermonuclear war by confusing a pack of flying reindeer with a first-strike attack by a foreign power. Finally, Santa Claus performs deliveries overnight, while the launch is scheduled for morning local time, so the timing of such a collision would not occur.
The JWST has been referenced previously in 1730: Starshade, 2014: JWST Delays, 2447: Hammer Incident and 2550: Webb, is on the list of payloads in 1461: Payloads and its planned use was indirectly referenced in 975: Occulting Telescope. Santa is known to maintain a list of humans responsible for technological incidents and to have suitable punishment for offenders. 12 days after launch it was referenced again in 2564: Sunshield.
- [Close-up of the top of the James Webb Space Telescope launch rocket. A "Webb" logo can be seen alongside other indistinct logos. Some clouds and birds are visible in the background.]
- Caption: T-minus 10...9...8...
- [Zoom-out to show the complete rocket and the ground below. The rocket takes up the bottom-left corner. At the top-right, Santa Claus and a line of reindeer are flying in towards the left.]
- Santa: Ho ho ho!
- Santa: Merry Christmas!
- [Ponytail and Cueball sitting at mission control consoles.]
- Cueball: Oh no.
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