As of today, there is no more valuable space device on our planet than the James Webb space telescope. His start was supposed to take place on December 18, but it is already known that it will be delayed. During the assembly of the rocket, there was an absurd incident that could damage it.
Worth its weight in gold
14 years of work, well over 10 billion dollars in costs, incredibly complicated construction and constantly postponed losses – this is how you can briefly describe the history of a device that can change our perception of the universe.
It could also end up with the biggest financial meltdown in the history of space observation. As recently revealed by NASA, it is estimated that from the moment of launch to the commencement of operational activity, over 300 critical failures are possible, most of them related to the extremely complicated procedure of its disassembly.
Meanwhile, an extremely dangerous incident, one of the “unbelievable” category, took place during the assembly of the telescope to the Ariene 5 carrier rocket adapter.
An absurd incident
During the activities related to connecting the telescope to the rocket, the clamp unexpectedly detached … the clamp holding the telescope (it was not stated whether the only one), which was to cause “vibrations” of the entire device. The NASA announcement is trying to sound reassuring, but the announcement of longer tests prompts you to think about how strong the shock must have been.
The start has already been postponed by at least 4 days, and a special commission chaired by NASA has been established in Guyana to investigate the causes of the opening of the unfortunate clamp and conduct tests of the observatory. The latter are to answer whether there has been any serious damage.
However, it will not be that simple, testing hundreds of elements that make Webb work took years and was a torment. The mechanisms have been designed to operate in conditions that prevail in outer space, which on Earth can only be better or worse simulated.
Anyway, the telescope has been in the assembly hall at the Guyana space complex for several weeks, where the testing possibilities will be rather limited. The accident, even if there are no disturbing symptoms, increases the uncertainty about the fate of the observatory after take-off. If something goes wrong during Webb’s startup and long startup routine, it will also make it difficult to track down the original source of the error, which is important for future projects of this type.
I must admit that with such enormous complications, challenges and problems experienced by this project, such a failure sounds absurd. It is as if the lift failed in a Ferrari repair shop and damaged the car … It remains to be hoped that this is just a bad start, and the start and start-up will go according to plan. Scientists and all fans of astronomy are eagerly awaiting the telescope.
What worries all Webb fans is the lack of Plan B. The telescope will be launched into orbit around Lagrange’s point L2 of the Sun-Earth system, approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. If something fails, the rescue mission will not be possible. It would take years to build another copy. Meanwhile, the Hubble telescope has still not fully recovered. Well, we’re getting an astronomically nervous December …