The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s new powerful space laboratory, was hit by a larger micrometer than expected at the end of May, causing detectable damage to one of the spacecraft’s 18 primary glass sections. The impact is that the mission team will have to repair the wreckage created by the strike, but NASA says the telescope is “still operating at a level that exceeds all work requirements”.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, is the agency’s incredibly powerful next-generation space telescope. Designed to see distant parts of the universe Also look back at the stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. This cost NASA To build nearly $ 10 billion And more than two decades to complete. But, on Christmas Day 2021, The telescope was finally sent into spaceWhere did it go The most complex exposure process Before It reaches its final destination about 1 million miles from Earth.
Since its inception, JWST has already been affected by at least four different micrometers. According to a NASA blog post, But they are all small and about the size NASA expects. The micrometeroid is usually a small piece of an asteroid. Usually smaller than sand grain. The attack on JWST in May was larger than what the agency had produced, although the company did not specify its exact size. NASA acknowledges that the strike between May 23 and May 25 had a “somewhat detectable effect on the data” and that engineers are continuing to study the effects of the impact.
NASA JWST expected to be hit by small space particles in its lifetime; The fast-moving points of the space rock are an inevitable feature of the deep space environment. In fact, NASA designed the telescope’s gold-plated glasses Withstand strikes By small space debris over time. The aerospace company also performed a combination of simulations and floor testing with glass samples to determine how best to strengthen the mirrors to withstand micrometeroid impacts. However, NASA claims that the models they used for these simulations did not have such a large micrometer and that it was “beyond what the ground panel had tested.”
However, this is not entirely surprising. “We have always known that web weather should make the space environment, which includes intense ultraviolet light and particles charged by the sun, cosmic rays from alien sources in the galaxy, and occasional attacks by micrometers in our solar system,” said Paul Geithner, NASA’s Goddard spacecraft. The airport’s deputy project manager said in a statement.
If NASA can see them coming, engineers have the ability to turn JWST’s glass and instruments out of the rain of space debris. The problem, however, is that this micrometer is not part of the rain, so NASA considers this to be an “unavoidable event”. However, the agency is developing an engineering team to come up with ways to avoid or mitigate the effects of microscopic attacks of this magnitude. Because JWST is so sensitive, the telescope will help NASA better understand how many micrometers there are in the deep space environment.
Despite the strike, NASA remained optimistic about the future of JWST. According to the blog, the initial performance of Webb’s life is still higher than expected, and the lab is capable of fully implementing the science designed to achieve it, the blog says. Engineers can repair the damaged glass to cancel data corruption. The mission team has already done this and will continue to tinker with the glass over time to get the best results. As new observations are made and events unfold, this is a process throughout JWST’s planned five to 10 years of life. At the same time, NASA warns that engineers cannot completely cancel the impact of the strike.
NASA engineers had to make JWST incredibly strong because the telescope is in space. Unlike its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which is currently orbiting the Earth, JWST is not designed to be serviceable. That is, if there is any significant breakage in the spacecraft, the engineers have to fix a way to fix it from the ground. JWST does not currently have the capability to send humans or a robotic spacecraft to give a tune-up. That means JWST will have to live with slightly damaged glass until its mission is completed, and NASA expects the spacecraft to be exposed to more debris over time.
Meanwhile, the strike did not affect JWST’s schedule. In fact, the news about this micrometeroid comes a month before a major milestone in the mission. After carefully measuring JWST’s equipment over the past few months and neatly aligning the spacecraft’s mirrors, the mission team is set to release the first full color images from JWST on July 12th. NASA does not say what the images will look like, but they should be spectacular.