NASA officials thought James Webb’s mission was doomed not too long ago, and that we might never see the first scientific images that were just shown to the world a few days ago.
The news comes from Carl Starr, who is the manager of NASA’s mission operations. He talked about early problems with the mission in a Science Channel special, which Yahoo News reported.
Sun shield scare with James Webb
James Webb’s mission control team waited for an alert that never came during a very tense few days. The sun shield covers on the most powerful space observatory to date are meant to roll back and hit a switch. This tells the team on Earth that the rollback was successful.
The sun shield keeps the observatory’s instruments from getting too hot from being in the sun all the time at Lagrange Point 2, which is about one million miles from Earth.
Starr explained that the alert that the instrument had unfolded correctly wouldn’t come during the deployment of James Webb because there were so many other things happening at the same time. According to Yahoo News, Starr said, “We never saw the switches turn on, so we stopped.” “The next step is to shoot it again, so we did, but it didn’t work.” “”Perhaps not all of them were let go,” Starr said. “And maybe it got a little bit pinched and was a little bit crooked like this, and then it just got stuck. Or it might have gotten stuck in there. It was a very big deal. I don’t know how to explain it, but again, it got very quiet and everyone got very serious.”
James Webb had problems even while he was on Earth. Before it was finally launched into space on December 25 of last year, the space observatory was delayed several times because of the large golden mirrors on the telescope.
James Webb will do much more.
The problem with the sun shield turned out to be more with the alert switch than with the sun shield itself. “The thermal engineers came forward with some telemetry,” Starr said, “and said, ‘I’m seeing these temperatures, and I’m telling you the only way you can get those is if there’s nothing in the way. So, it must have been unrolled. It just didn’t work out.'”
Starr talked about how happy everyone was at mission control when they heard the mission could go ahead. Starr said, “When they told us that and gave us the briefing, everyone’s faces showed relief, and we were able to go full speed ahead right away.”
And now, the James Webb team is still putting out new scientific information at full speed. On Monday, July 11, President Biden and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson showed the world the first scientific picture taken by the space observatory. The next day, more beautiful pictures were shown to the whole world.
At the same time, Klaus Pontoppidan, the chief JWST project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), said that more scientific data from Webb would be made public in the next “day or two.” Operations are going well, which means we can look forward to a lot more from James Webb in the near future.