A delicate moment on the mission: The James Webb Space Telescope opens its screen

A delicate moment on the mission: The James Webb Space Telescope opens its screen

critical moment of the mission
James Webb Space Telescope opens screen

The James Webb Telescope is said to have previously looked deeper into space than any other human research instrument. But first, the sensitive sensor has to be protected with a giant sail. With its correct position, the mission rises or falls.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched over Christmas, has fully unraveled its massive sun shield in a crucial and complex phase. “All five layers of the sun shield are fully tensioned,” said a NASA employee at the control center in the US city of Baltimore, while his colleagues cheered. Shield deployment had begun a day earlier.

The sun shield, shaped like a sail and a tennis court, protects the telescope and its sensitive instruments from heat and light. Its thin hairline is made of captan, a material known for its resistance to heat and cold.

Because the telescope was too large for the Ariane 5 rocket, it had to be folded before launch. Exposure in space was a complex and risky process that caused great concern to those in charge of NASA. “When asked what keeps me awake at night, it’s the deployment of a sun shield,” project manager Bill Ochs said before the operation.

Look back at the early days of the universe

The Ariane 5 rocket brought the successor to the legendary Hubble Telescope into space from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Christmas Day. The James Webb Telescope is to trace the early days of the universe 13 billion years ago and thus a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers hope to draw the first conclusions about the formation of stars and galaxies.

The telescope, named after a former director of the US space agency, was jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the University of Cologne and several German companies also participated.

The project, which began in 1989, was originally scheduled to go into operation in the early 2000s. However, new problems delayed the project for years, and the cost tripled to nearly ten billion dollars (8.8 billion euros). The start had to be postponed several times.

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