Big setback for NASA, James Webb Space Telescope badly damaged by asteroid

In May, an asteroid struck the NASA James Webb Space Telescope. At the time, it was said that the damage sustained was on course with prediction models. However, it now appears the damage was worse than what was anticipated.

The most advanced space telescope by NASA, James Webb Space Telescope has suffered massive damage from asteroid strike. Webb Space Telescope is made up of precious technology and carries one of the largest mirrors on a space telescope to observe phenomena and events in space previously inaccessible to us. And to fulfill the ambition, it is required that the JWST remains operational and continues to take images for years to come. However, concerns are being raised over the longevity of the project after it was revealed that an asteroid strike to the space telescope in May might have left it in a worse shape than previously understood.

NASA James Webb Space Telescope gets struck by asteroids

On May 22, six micrometeorites struck the telescope’s primary mirror. Among them, 5 did a negligible amount of damage, however, the sixth caused some damage. In a statement, NASA has shared more information regarding this asteroid strike.

NASA said, “The single micrometeorite impact that occurred between 22 — 24 May 2022 UT exceeded prelaunch expectations of damage for a single micrometeoroid triggering further investigation and modelling by the JWST Project. The micrometeoroid which hit segment C3 in the period 22—24 May 2022 UT caused significant uncorrectable change in the overall figure of that segment. However, the effect was small at the full telescope level because only a small portion of the telescope area was affected”.

The good news is that although significant damage has taken place on one of the panels, it will not impact its image taking abilities at all. However, future strikes might impact its image taking abilities. There is a reason why such strikes are a bigger concern with JWST than the Hubble Space Telescope.

JWST carries an abnormally large mirror to take high resolution images of objects far in space. But it was not possible to put the mirror inside the spacecraft. So, it was kept on top of the space telescope and unfolded systematically once it was in space. For this reason, its mirrors are always exposed to external damages and there cannot be any protective sheath for it. Only time will tell us if NASA has a better way of predicting such micrometeorite strikes and protecting its expensive asset.

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