The James Webb Space Telescope: Six Months of Waiting To See If Perfection Is All It's Cracked Up To Be.

Ditto. Every time I look, nothing has checked out. @RRRob knows things!

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This will be right at the end of the semester. I might have to interrupt my usual class to show the first images. It’ll be during my astronomy class on the second to last day, I think.

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I think it’s justified, under those circumstances. Did you interrupt for the first images coming back from Pluto from New Horizons? It’s going to be a very, very long time before we get any more images of Pluto and Charon that are on par with those.

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I wasn’t teaching astronomy when the New Horizons images were first released, but you can bet that I showed them to my classes and I incorporated them into my astronomy section.

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Sheer luck and too much time on my hands, really.

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Another instrument mode checked out today, this time on NIRSpec: ten to go!

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MIRI imaging was checked out today — nine modes to go!

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Another one for NIRCAM yesterday. Wide Field Slitless Spectroscopy.

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NIRISS is now fully checked out! The MIRI low resolution spectroscope may also have slipped in under the radar a couple of weeks ago (6/6/2022?), but it’s unclear. Six or seven modes to go!

Webb’s NIRSpec Acquires Multiple Targets

The Webb team has now approved 10 out of 17 science instrument modes; since last week we added (14) MIRI imaging, (2) NIRCam wide-field slitless spectroscopy, and our final NIRISS mode, (10) single-object slitless spectroscopy. As we ramp down the final commissioning activities, some openings in the schedule have appeared. The team has started to take some of the first science data, getting it ready to release starting July 12, 2022, which will mark the official end of commissioning Webb and the start of routine science operations.

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Looks like that grayed-out MIRI low resolution spectroscope checkoff was a false alarm — but not anymore! It, along with the MIRI medium resolution spectroscope was checked out today. Five modes to go!

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Webb’s NIRISS Ready to See Cosmos in Over 2,000 Infrared Colors

One of the James Webb Space Telescope’s four primary scientific instruments, known as the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph instrument (NIRISS), has concluded its postlaunch preparations and is now ready for science.

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T-minus 14 days

ETA: There will be an online media briefing Wednesday, 6/29 at 10 AM EDT

https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

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NIRSpec fixed slit spectroscopy checked out today. Four modes to go!

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Who wants to bet that they’ll announce that — with just four modes left as of this afternoon — all the instruments are fully checked out, and that science observations have begun.

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Sometimes, I think that NASA gives themselves longer schedules than they actually think they’ll need with the intention of amazing people with how quickly they get things done. :slight_smile:

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Eh, about that…

  • Glances over at Artemis I on the launch pad — ready to roll back to the VAB for hopefully the final time. And, of course, SLS was a follow-on to the canceled Constellation program…[1]
    • And despite over forty years of proposals, research studies, and tests, the SLS is the only Shuttle-derived launch vehicle to come anywhere close to reaching orbit…[2][3]
  • Glances up at Lucy with a still-stuck, mostly deployed solar array…
  • Turns to face Insight
    • Which missed its first launch window because a persistent leak in its seismometer’s vacuum chamber necessitated replacing it rather than risk a repair to the original failing…
    • With its “mole” still sticking up out of the hole it started digging because it couldn’t go any further, despite over a year of failed attempts to resolve the issue…[4]
    • Not to mention the utter lack of the dust devils that were originally forecast to periodically clean Insight’s solar arrays and keep the extended mission going indefinitely…[5]
  • Looks back down to Psyche which is indefinitely postponed because the flight software wasn’t going to be finished before the end of the current launch window. And that postponement has started a domino effect for the two rideshare missions that were to accompany it…
  • Let’s not start on the tortuously long history of the James Webb Space Telescope that is the subject of this particular forum topic…

And then there’s the tragic, still-ongoing saga of the ESA’s poor, poor Rosalind Franklin Mars rover. It was originally supposed to launch in 2018; now it will launch in 2028… if it’s lucky.

Scotty: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would really take, did ya?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well, of course I did.
Scotty: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.


  1. Which gave us the Orion capsule and its underpowered service module… ↩︎

  2. Assuming there isn’t a Wickwick Event that kills the program entirely… ↩︎

  3. The Constellation Program’s suborbital Ares I-X test vehicle is the runner-up… ↩︎

  4. The dirt(?) at the landing site didn’t have the mechnical properties they expected based on what was found at other landing sites on Mars, so the mole was pretty much doomed from the start… ↩︎

  5. To be fair, without the mole taking heat flow measurements, they’ve been able to keep the seismometer running a lot longer than they would have otherwise… ↩︎

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They do deliberately insert holds into their countdowns. Scheduled delays.

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Maybe I’m just looking at NASA with my rose-colored glasses. Even though I know about all the James Webb delays, most of that wasn’t really their fault. It’s the fault of the people who change their budget over and over again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NASA’s budget should not be at the whims of politicians who know nothing about what they’re doing.

Back in college, I had to write a persuasive paper for my English class and I chose to write about the necessity of funding for NASA. :slight_smile:

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When NASA is allowed to do pure research and development, given a specific goal to pursue or creates a new one out of its own research, and is adequately funded to pursue it — without strings attached — it’s a gem. QueSST is a good current example. Apollo was a good past one.

When other agencies get involved, you get boondoggles like what the Space Transportation System evolved into. All NASA originally wanted was a small, reusable manned orbiter — Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser is a direct decendent of NASA’s work along those lines. The end result, however, was a gigantic vehicle that had crossrange capability designed in (for military and intelligence missions) that was never used and that was never economical to operate in the way it was sold as.

And when Congress saw what a jobs program the Space Transportation System was, they wanted to keep that gravy train rolling for the benefit of their constituents (who, incidentally, would then keep voting them back into office). That’s what gave us the Space Launch System — its basic design (Shuttle main engines, SRBs, and external tank reuse) was dictated to NASA by congressional fiat.

I’m very much for what NASA does along the lines of pure research and development. But the sad truth of the matter is that it’s an agency whose purse strings are held by a fickle government, and whose primary purpose is changed by executive decision every four to eight years. It makes for very, very difficult long-term project planning.

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James Webb himself was instrumental in that. He went to the Government and proposed “A man. On the Moon. In a decade”. A definite goal with a definite result with a definite timeframe. The administration of the day agreed to the terms and future administrations were bound by them. If there was going to be a failure it would have to be NASA’s failure to put a man on the Moon within a decade.

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