The whole world recently enjoyed the incredible photos of the Universe obtained by James Webb. But the other day, unpleasant details related to the preparation of the space telescope for operation at a distance of almost 2 million km from Earth were revealed. NASA headquarters admitted that they were seriously scared when engineers suddenly lost contact with James Webb.
NASA mission manager Carl Starr told Science Channel in an interview that the tennis court-sized JWST sunscreen, which protects the observatory’s very sensitive equipment from sunlight, suddenly stopped transmitting data about its position to the mission control center during deployment. This meant that the screen deployment did not happen completely, which put the entire USD 10 billion mission at risk.
The next step taken by the engineers was to restart the deployment. But this also did not work – the sensors that provided information about the position of the protective screen and the operation of the servomotors did not respond. The flight control manager admitted that when this problem arose, there was “deathly silence” in the room at NASA headquarters.
The mission operators never received a reaction from James Webb, but engineers and scientists breathed a sigh of relief when they received a report on the temperature data of the space telescope. It was these data that showed that the sunscreen was finally deployed.
If the sunscreen did not deploy, the internal instruments would not have cooled to the necessary ultra-low temperatures, which would have made the telescope “blind” and simply turned it into the most expensive space debris.
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