NASA James Webb Space Telescope’s ultra-cold camera has been hit by a malfunction. This affects the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), one of the critical components on JWST. What is going to happen now?
Houston we have a problem! This iconic expression has been used exhaustively to indicate that things look really bad for the person or thing in question. It might as well be applied to the James Webb space station which ran into a huge problem about 1 million miles from Earth. After enchanting the world with breathtaking, never-before-seen images for the past three months, the NASA James Webb Space Telescope faces an unexpected challenge. The space telescope is experiencing a technical malfunction. This interference affects the ultra-cold camera linked to the telescope’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI). MIRI is one of the telescope’s two main components and plays an important role in the images it captures. With this sudden challenge looming, scientists were forced to postpone some of the sightings scheduled for this week. But the bigger shadow looming is what will happen to the JWST now? Is there a way to fix the glitch or will scientists lose one of the key functionalities? Read on to find out.
NASA James Webb Space Telescope faces unexpected engineering challenge
This particular glitch affected MIRI’s raspy wheel. This wheel is important for scientists to adjust the wavelength of light to see an object clearly. However, the wheel does not render the whole instrument useless. It is used in one of MIRI’s four observation modes, called medium-resolution spectroscopy (MRS) mode. In this mode, the instrument records light spectra.
According to a NASA pronunciation, this glitch was first noticed by the scientists in late August. After investigation, it was decided to pause that mode for observation. “The Webb team has stopped scheduling observations using this particular observation mode as they continue to analyze the behavior and are currently developing strategies to resume MRS observations as soon as possible,” NASA officials wrote in the statement. .
It appears NASA has not given up on the feature and is now determining the best way to fix it and continue the mission. The statement further reassured: “The observatory is in good health and MIRI’s other three observation modes – imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy and coronagraphy – are operating normally and remain available for scientific observations.”
This isn’t the first time the JWST has faced an unexpected challenge. In the early days of his deployment, a meteoroid hit his mirror causing extensive damage. At the time, NASA stated that the impact was bigger than they expected, but it’s not uncommon for a space telescope to withstand such hits.
Do you know: “Houston, we have a problem” is a popular but somewhat inaccurate quote from the radio communications between the Apollo 13 astronauts Jack Swigert, Jim Lovell and the NASA Mission Control Center (“Houston”) during the Apollo 13 spaceflight in 1970, such as the astronauts reported their discovery of the explosion that paralyzed their spacecraft to mission control.