What happened now? NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope hasn’t even made its first science mission yet, but is already taking damage from the harsh environment of space. In the period from May 23 to May 25, a large micrometeoroid hit one of the segments of the main mirror of the sight. After assessing the damage, the space agency concluded that Webb was still meeting all mission requirements “despite a minor finding of the effect in the data.”
Micrometeorite impacts are a common occurrence in space, and NASA developed A Webb mirror that can withstand the impact of dust-sized particles moving at extremely high speeds. During the construction phase, engineers pelted sample mirrors with fine particles and ran simulations to better understand how best to shore up the space observatory.
Unfortunately, the micrometeoroid that recently tagged Webb was larger than what the engineers had modeled and could test here on Earth. It was also not caused by a known meteor shower, meaning there was no way for NASA to maneuver the scope ahead of time to protect its optics. Thus, the strike was classified as an unavoidable random event.
“Since launch, we have had four small, measurable micrometeoroid impacts that have met expectations, and this is the more recent one, which is larger than our degradation predictions suggested,” said Lee Feinberg, Elements Manager for the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA Goddard.
The collision prompted the operators to assemble a team of engineers to look for ways to mitigate the effects of further impacts of this magnitude.
NASA is still on track to share first full color images telescope July 12th.
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