Monday, August 19, 2013

The James Webb Space Telescope: A Rare Earth Telescope?

Slated to replace the now aging Hubble Space Telescope, is the James Webb Telescope deserve the moniker “Rare Earth Telescope” due to the amount of rare earth elements needed to make it do its cosmic exploration?

By: Ringo Bones 

Insiders from Lockheed Martin often joked that its rare earth element content equals that of three Predator drones, but why does the James Webb Space Telescope need such prodigious amounts of rare earth elements to do its intended function in exploring the cosmos? Well, maybe it has to do on where the new space telescope will be finally situated. 

Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which is situated in low Earth orbit 250 miles or 400 kilometers above us, the James Webb Space Telescope will be situated 1-million miles from the Earth so any fixing by NASA astronauts in case of a post launch in-space field repairs will be much, much harder than the Hubble fix in low Earth orbit by EVAing astronauts back in the early 1990s. The unfurling of the James Webb Space Telescope’s over-sized mirrors and heat shield 1 million miles in space must go as planned or it will become a sad multi-billion US dollar astronomical blunder. 

In order for the James Webb Space Telescope to achieve reliability in the hostile vacuum and near absolute zero cold of outer space, its servo motors are especially made with advanced proprietary samarium rare earth magnets that can still reliably function at 2.7 Kelvin – the average temperature of the hard vacuum of outer space. These servo motors not only unfurl the over-sized mirrors once the space telescopes arrive in a point in space 1-million miles away from Earth but also the aluminized gold plated mylar heat shield that would protect the James Webb Space Telescope’s main mirror from the relentless unfiltered glare of the Sun. 

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