NATIONAL NEWS

NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed

Jan 3, 2022, 8:52 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:42 pm

In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Ari...

In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket launches with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope onboard, from the ELA-3 Launch Zone of Europes Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre at Europes Spaceport, at the Guiana Space Center on December 25, 2021, in Kourou, French Guiana. The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 21.3 foot (6.5 meter) primary mirror. The observatory will study every phase of cosmic history from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

(Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.

The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.

The $10 billion telescope — the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched — rocketed away Christmas Day from French Guiana. Its sunshield and primary mirror had to be folded to fit into the European Ariane rocket.

The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.

But there have been a few obstacles.

Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman.

They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.

“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.

Ochs expects the tightening of the sunshield to be drama-free.

“The best thing for operations is boring, and that’s what we anticipate over the next three days, is to be boring,” he told reporters in a teleconference.

If that holds true, the telescope’s gold-plated mirror — more than 21 feet (6.5 meters) across — could unfold as soon as this weekend.

Webb should reach its destination 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away by the end of January. As of Monday, the telescope was more than halfway there. The infrared telescope should begin observing the cosmos by the end of June, ultimately unveiling the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe 13.7 billion years ago. That’s a mere 100 million years after the universe-creating Big Bang.

Launched in 1990, Hubble, which sees primarily visible light, has peered as far back as 13.4 billion years ago. Astronomers hope to close the gap with Webb, which is 100 times more powerful.

In another bit of good news Monday, officials said they expect Webb to last well beyond the originally anticipated 10 years based on its fuel efficiency.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

In this Jan. 4, 2013 photo, evidence of sliding snow is seen in steep terrain near a ski area at Sn...

Associated Press

2 snowmobilers killed in separate avalanches in Washington and Idaho

Two snowmobilers have been killed in separate avalanches in Washington state and in Idaho.

5 hours ago

Jeff Bezos attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" World Premiere in Leicester Square o...

Ramishah Maruf, CNN

Jeff Bezos dethrones Elon Musk to become the richest person on earth again

Jeff Bezos has reclaimed the title of the richest person on earth, surpassing Elon Musk, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index on Monday.

6 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally March 2 in Richmond, Virginia....

Gregory Krieg, CNN

Trump will win North Dakota GOP caucuses, CNN projects

 Former President Donald Trump will win North Dakota’s Republican presidential caucuses, CNN projects, claiming one final boost before the campaign expands to 15 states on Super Tuesday.

6 hours ago

FILE - Left to right, clockwise: Twitter former executives Vijaya Gadde, Parag Agrawal, Ned Segal, ...

Brian Fung and Clare Duffy, CNN

Former Twitter execs sue Elon Musk over severance payments

A group of former Twitter executives sued Elon Musk on Monday in a bid to recover more than $128 million in severance that they allege Musk has not paid since he acquired the company, now called X, more than a year ago.

9 hours ago

Idaho State Police released aerial photos of a string of crash sties on Interstate 84 on March 4, 2...

Mary Culbertson

63 cars, semitrucks crash on I-84 following winter storm

Idaho State Police responded to a string of crashes on I-84 Monday morning, closing miles of the interstate for hours.

10 hours ago

Tova Callender, left, and Christiane Keyhani of Hui O Ka Wai Ola, collect water samples at the Mala...

AUDREY McAVOY Associated Press

In Hawaii, coral is the foundation of life. What happened to it after the Lahaina wildfire?

For now, state officials are urging the public to limit their exposure to the ocean and seafood until scientists understand what might be making its way through the food chain.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed