MIRI Instrument Marks a First Milestone in Space. See here

05/01/2022
Credit: NASA -MIRI team
Credit: NASA -MIRI team

News! Today, the James Webb Telescope opened its sunshade. But it wasn't the only thing he did at the time. Indeed, there was an entire team on Earth that oversaw Webb when he unveiled his sunshade, but there was another team that oversaw another part of Webb with other components that then executed some commands. Today, just as Webb was undoing his sunshade, a NASA and ESA team was monitoring him to unlock the middle infrared (MIRI) contamination control cover. 

"MIRI has a Contamination Control Cover, because the constraints of its extra-cold operating temperature mean that it is not possible to include other means of dealing with ice contamination, such as heaters for sensitive components. For launch it was safest to have this cover locked, and the timing for operating it is driven by the temperatures of the observatory." said Gillian Wright, European principal investigator for MIRI. 

"To unlock the cover, we first had to power on our Instrument Control Electronics and confirm that they were functioning correctly. Then the commands to the cover could be sent. After successfully completing the tests and unlocking the cover, the instrument control electronics were then powered off before the next steps on the sunshield tensioning activities. This key step for MIRI was monitored remotely by team members in Europe, ready to provide assistance if it were needed." continue Gillian.

"The picture here shows tired and happy MIRI team members at the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, after completing this first of the many MIRI commissioning steps. The MIRI Contamination Control Cover will be closed in the next few days to protect the optics from any possible contaminants as the observatory cools. It will then be reopened much later in the timeline, when MIRI has cooled to its operating temperature of just 7K and is ready to look out at the sky." also said Gillian Wright, European principal investigator for the Mid-Infrared Instrument, UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

So Webb sometimes does two operations on the same day, even at the same time, and to oversee these operations requires large teams to monitor it and be able to intervene if something happens, by communicating with the telescope, from Earth. 

We wish Webb, NASA, ESA and CSA continued success on an extraordinary mission. 

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 05 January 2022, at 11:20 am Los Angeles time

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