A few hours ago, NASA released JWST image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 one day before the scheduled time:

enter image description here

President Joe Biden unveiled this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb’s First Deep Field, during a White House event Monday, July 11.


From this link, it clearly says:

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will release its first full-color images and spectroscopic data on July 12, 2022.

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    $\begingroup$ NASA, by having the US President unveil the first image, is trying to underline the JWST as a US achievement as opposed to an international collaboration with ESA and CSA. Without ESA’s highly accurate Ariane 5 launch of JWST, for example, the telescope wouldn’t have an expected 20 year lifetime. NASA has thus stolen some of the thunder from the unveiling of the remaining ‘first’ images today with participation from ESA and CSA. The US always likes to project to the world that it’s the best at everything, and to play down the role of its international collaborators. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2022 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ I have addressed the question. It’s about politics and projecting the US. The MIRI instrument will peer even deeper into space than NIRcam, and it’s an ESA instrument. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2022 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ My understanding is this was some sort of sneak peak deal, to be followed by the release of multiple images? $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2022 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @spacefossil FYI - if you're the same account as Barry McMahon, you can get your accounts merged using the steps here: space.stackexchange.com/help/merging-accounts $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Jul 12, 2022 at 14:31

1 Answer 1


Biden's remarks did not explicitly say why one image was previewed ahead of the others (or why this was the image chosen), but we can speculate.

First, NASA press events are not a mainstream outlet that many people go to look at. Anecdotally I found it rather difficult this morning to actually find the press conference -- outlets like CNN and the New York Times had their own "live coverage" of the event with their commentary alongside the images, but did not actually link to NASA's broadcast.

A briefing from the White House press room is much more direct, and will reach a larger audience. Something as momentous as Webb's first image deserves a large stage.

Secondly, it is a traditional sort of honor in the US to be the subject of a speech from the president (think of a medal ceremony), and indeed parts of the speech were used to commend the Webb team:

I want to thank the team at NASA for once again showing that that’s who we are — that’s who we are as a nation: a nation of possibilities.

Thirdly, it is an opportunity for the administration to stump for STEM education and science outreach (and who's going to object to that?):

That’s why the federal government must invest — must invest in science and technology, more than we have in the past.

These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things. And they’ll remind the American people, especially our children, that there’s nothing beyond our capacity — nothing beyond our capacity.

And fourthly, it is an opportunity to celebrate the relationship with international mission partners. A call-out from the presidential stage sends a clear message of "the US as a whole values this collaboration", while a call-out from a NASA event would not.

So, what an incredible team — joined, by the way, with our international partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. So this is an international endeavor.

All in all, I think the decision to have a ceremony is obvious, and having a ceremony without any images would have been just cruel to everyone who was excited!


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