NASA’s Webb Space Telescope’s Mirror Unfolds

As one of the most awaited events, the team of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its 21-foot, gold-coated primary mirror and successfully completed the final stage of all major spacecraft deployments to prepare for science operations.

As reported by NASA, the Webb mission will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. The mission is a joint effort NASA with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency.

Quoting to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, agencies said, “Today, NASA achieved another engineering milestone decades in the making. While the journey is not complete, I join the Webb team in breathing a little easier and imagining the future breakthroughs bound to inspire the world”.

Administrator Nelson further added that the James Webb Space Telescope was an unprecedented mission that was on the precipice of seeing the light from the first galaxies and discovering the mysteries of our universe. According to him, each feat already achieved and future accomplishment would be a testament to the thousands of innovators who poured their life’s passion into this mission.

Report said the two wings of Webb’s primary mirror had been folded to fit inside the nose cone of an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket prior to launch. After more than a week of other critical spacecraft deployments, the Webb team began remotely unfolding the hexagonal segments of the primary mirror, the largest ever launched into space. This was a multi-day process, with the first side deployed 7 January and the second 8 January.

Mission Operations Center ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore began deploying the second side panel of the mirror at 8:53 a.m. EST. The team declared all major deployments successfully completed when it extended and latched into position at 1:17 p.m. EST.

As mentioned by NASA, the world’s largest and most complex space science telescope will now begin moving its 18 primary mirror segments to align the telescope optics. The ground team will command 126 actuators on the backsides of the segments to flex each mirror – an alignment that will take months to complete. Then the team will calibrate the science instruments prior to delivering Webb’s first images this summer.

According to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate in NASA Headquarters in Washington Webb’s successful deployment exemplifies the best of what NASA has to offer; the willingness to attempt bold and challenging things in the name of discoveries still unknown.

The Webb Telescope will also undergo a third mid-course correction burn – one of three planned to place the telescope precisely in orbit around the second Lagrange point, commonly known as L2, nearly 1 million miles from Earth. NASA says this is the Webb’s final orbital position, where its sunshield will protect it from light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon that could interfere with observations of infrared light.

The Webb is designed to peer back over 13.5 billion years to capture infrared light from celestial objects, with much higher resolution than ever before, and to study our own solar system as well as distant worlds.

Webb will give better view of Helix

“The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” agencies said citing to Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters.

Director Robinson added that that was the first time a NASA-led mission had ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space – a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world.

  • January 9, 2022
Universe & Existence