(ORDO NEWS) — NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope mirror was hit by a micrometeoroid last month, but is still capable of performing its intended functions as normal, NASA said yesterday, Thursday.
“Following an initial damage assessment, the team found that the performance of the observatory continues to be at a level that exceeds all the requirements of the mission program, despite the fact that the impact of these damages still affects the data collected,” the US space agency said.
“Webb’s performance at the start of its mission is still well above expectations, and the observatory is capable of fully performing the science operations it was intended to perform,” NASA added.
One of the segments of the main mirror of the space observatory was pierced by a micrometeoroid, the size of which did not exceed the size of a grain of sand, between May 23 and 25.
The telescope, which cost NASA almost $10 billion, is one of the most expensive scientific stations ever built by mankind, and its cost is comparable to the cost of the scientific predecessor Hubble, built and operated jointly by NASA and ESA, or the Large Hadron Collider, built by CERN.
Over the past few months, scientists have been aligning mirrors and calibrating scientific instruments in preparation for the first scientific data.
NASA noted that micrometeoroid impacts are “an inevitable aspect of the operation of any spacecraft” and “have been taken into account in the design and testing of mirrors.” Over time, such collisions with small space rocks will cause the mirrors to gradually degrade, it added.
“Since launch, we’ve recorded four smaller micrometeoroid impacts, which were in line with forecasts,” said Lee Feinberg, team leader in charge of the telescope’s optical elements at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA noted that to protect the Webb, the mission team could turn the telescope’s optics away from known meteor showers. At the same time, the agency indicated that the collision in May occurred with a micrometeoroid that was not part of any meteor shower known to science.
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