A world divided to launch the James Webb . space telescope

America is a divided nation, but that doesn’t stop it from building parts of the country James Webb . Space Telescope in the red state and test them in the blue state.

The European Union and Russia have facing Ukraine and other issues this year, but scientists on both sides will greatly benefit from discoveries that could soon be within reach.

And while epidemic Supply chains fail around the world, with no lockdowns that can deflect telescopes’ orbits toward the stars: Components are assembled in multiple countries, then tested at United States and the final product is lifted to a launch pad in French Guiana before being sent into space. Christmas day.

In a way, the James Webb Space Telescope told a story rarely heard today: the story of nations coming together for a common ambition. At a time when nations are divided climate change, migration and a disease that has killed millions of peoplethe spacecraft – launched to search for habitable planets and search for the earliest, most distant stars and galaxies – is a powerful reminder that international cooperation in projects Large scale projects are still possible.

Martin Barstow, professor of astrophysics and space science at the University of Leicester in the UK, said: “I like to think of science as a way to get control of some of the extreme situations we encounter on the planet. this planet. Center. “And I have always viewed space as an area where we collaborate, during challenging times.”

With cooperation, however, competition also comes. China, which is not involved in the project, intends to start it its own space telescope expected to be a kind of competitor. China has also cooperation with Russia in its own duties as Russian-American space alliance has become tense because of political tensions between the countries.

However, the process of forming and launching the telescope, which took more than 30 years, required not only the collaboration of scientists around the globe, but also a shared cost of $10 billion, largely due to United States coverage. mostly American thing launched last year and overseen by NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope is a joint venture of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency – The largest and most expensive space observatory ever built.

Even as upheavals on both sides of the Atlantic changed the political landscape, none of that affected the telescope project. The work transcends the rise of Donald J. Trump in the United States, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, and the growing popularity of nationalist movements in Europe, including many who Pursuing them has questioned vaccine science.

As the pandemic brought travel bans around the world, German scientists had to find a way to remotely inspect parts of a telescope located in Redondo Beach, California.

“I’ve been to Los Angeles so often and then you suddenly don’t,” said Oliver Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, who is working on a successor to the Webb telescope, underway in California. can do that. He said the teams spent weeks figuring out alternatives.

Krause’s own contributions are key pieces of the engineering puzzle – the wheels that allow the telescope’s infrared camera and spectrometer to switch between different modes. His team in Heidelberg, Germany, was chosen to build them because of their long experience with the moving parts of telescopes.

“That’s key because if the wheel gets stuck in the intermediate position, you’ll suddenly have no light coming in,” he said, praising German engineering. Other parts of the telescope, like its sunshade, were made in localities like Huntsville, Ala.

As well as parts of telescopes navigating borders and political divisions, experts like Sarah Kendrew, an instrumentation and calibration scientist at the European Space Agency are also an astronomer. study too.

Ms. Kendrew helped create one of the telescope’s key components, the Mid-Range Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. The instrument can detect light from the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum – invisible to the naked eye – and can detect faint galaxies, forming stars as well as planets. orbiting other stars, called exoplanets.

Ms. Kendrew’s work on MIRI began during her postdoctoral fellowship in the Netherlands in 2008. She then moved to Germany, where the device was tested, and to the UK, continuing to research MIRI and other devices. other astronomical equipment. Finally, in 2016, she moved to Baltimore, which became the telescope’s mission control center.

She said shortly after returning home from Kourou, French Guiana, a French territory in South America, where she watched the telescope take off.

There seems to be something hopeful about the launch itself, coming at the end of an extremely difficult year in a world desperate for good news. Tracked in many countries, it harks back to the opening of the International Space Station two decades ago, or the first Apollo missions to the moon, when people watched to watch the space race unfold. out globally.

Michaël Gillon, a Belgian astrophysicist involved in the project, said: “Everywhere in the world, people watched the launch of James Webb. “Even if they’re in China or North Korea, that’s interesting for them. And discoverability keeps people interested regardless of their religion or political system. ”

While scientists will look to telescopes to answer countless questions about the universe, the question that excites humanity most is one that humanity has long wondered: Will there be others looking back We are from the stars?

Mr. Gillon, who is searching for signs of life on other planets, is assembling the team so that one day he may return with answers.

Using previous telescopes, Gillon discovered seven Earth-sized planets in the Trappist-1 star system, in the constellation Aquarius. He named each of his favorite beers.

“We wanted to bring a Belgian flavor to the project,” he jokes.

To fully study Trappist-1, he organized a consortium of more than 100 scientists including scientists from Morocco, Japan, and the Netherlands, and pooled their resources to research together. save the star system.

“We were even able to detect some traces of biological activity, which is really the holy grail of the field,” said Gillon.

The astronomer thought for a moment about the potential impact of searching for life in the universe at a time when climate change and epidemics seem to threaten our shared future.

“It won’t solve all of our problems,” he admitted. “I still think this is something that gives magic and a sense of being human.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/30/world/europe/webb-telescope-launch-space.html A world divided to launch the James Webb . space telescope

Fry Electronics Team

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