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The James Webb space telescope’s mission is unfolding as expected

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JAMES WEBB SPACE

 

 

James Webb space telescope – When it comes to superstitions; NASA and baseball see the world in different ways.

 

It’s one of baseball’s unwritten rules that when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter through; say, seven innings, you never, ever mention it out loud.

 

To speak of it is to jinx it, and likelier than not, you’ll get clobbered in the eighth.

 

NASA, clearly, takes a different approach.

 

In the 13 days since the Christmas morning launch of the James Webb Space Telescope—the most powerful and complex cosmic observatory ever built;—the space agency has been tossing successful inning after successful inning; getting the telescope unfolded, aligned, and powered-up, and keeping it on course to its destination 1.6 million km (1 million mi.) away from Earth at a gravitationally stable spot called L2; where it will station-keep for the next decade, peering deeper into the universe than any telescope ever has before.

 

The space agency has been none too shy about talking up its successes, even hosting a sort of Webb dashboard; with regular updates on just where in space the telescope is and what milestones it has passed.

 

ALSO READ: How to watch the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

Such early, if cautious, enthusiasm is understandable, since the challenges Webb faced before launch were daunting.

 

The $10 billion telescope—which consists principally of an 18-segment, 6.5 m (21.3 ft) mirror and a sun shield the size of a tennis court—had to be folded up small enough to fit in the 5 m (16 ft) payload bay of the Ariane 5 rocket that launched it; then released into space and unfolded in a process that one Webb team leader described as “origami in reverse.”

 

That was never going to be easy. Hundreds of hinges, pulleys, actuators, and more have to work in a perfect synchrony; overcoming 344 so-called “single-point failures”—each a solitary breakdown that, all by itself, could spell the end of the mission.

 

Far and away, the most challenging step was unfolding the sun shield, a delicate structure that consists of five layers of kapton; a foil-like film—each thinner than a human hair—that protects the mirror from the heat of the sun and allows it to operate at the ultra-cold temperatures necessary to observe space in the infrared wavelength; which is the ability that gives Webb its exquisite visual acuity.

 

That step was successfully completed on Jan. 4, and NASA was ready with a celebratory tweet.

 

“This is it,” the space agency crowed, “we’ve just wrapped up one of the most challenging steps of our journey to #UnfoldTheUniverse.

 

With all five layers of sunshield tensioning complete, about 75% of our 344 single-point failures have been retired!”

 

Webb program director Gregory Robinson was no less enthusiastic in a later conversation with TIME; if a little bit more measured. “Certainly, I would say the sunshield deployment and tensioning was probably the single highest risk,” he says.

 

“There are many others, but we came through that one pretty good.”

ALSO READ: Year ender: Space news that made 2021 special

 

The next big step came the very next day, when the telescope’s secondary mirror—a much smaller .74 m (2.4 ft.) reflector—was deployed.

 

The mirror is positioned on three seven-meter (25 ft) long struts and will reflect the infrared signatures captured by the main mirror and direct them into the telescope’s instruments.

 

“The world’s most sophisticated tripod has deployed,” said Lee Feinberg, a Webb project manager, in a statement.

 

“Webb’s secondary mirror had to deploy in microgravity, and in extremely cold temperatures, and it ultimately had to work the first time without error. It also had to deploy, position, and lock itself into place to a tolerance of about one and a half millimeters.”

 

After the secondary mirror comes the deployment of the main mirror;—which is currently still folded like a table with leaves—a process that will begin today or Saturday.

 

Following that will be a much slower, 10-day exercise in which; each of the mirror’s 18 hexagonal segments is angled and adjusted in seven different axes—up, down, left, right, in, out and diagonally—to bring the overall mirror into focus.

 

That one will take some patience.

 

“That’s a slow process,” says Robinson. “It’s almost like watching grass grow—though it’s some pretty grass when it’s done right.”

 

Still to come online is a suite of onboard sensing instruments, most importantly, the near-infrared camera (NIRCam); the spacecraft’s primary imager; and its mass spectrometer, which will allow Webb to analyze the chemistry not just of objects deep in the universe, but also the atmospheres of exoplanets in our own galaxy; looking for chemical signatures of methane, oxygen, carbon dioxide and more, which could provide clues to whether the planets are habitable—or even inhabited.

ALSO READ: China’s Shenzhou-13 taikonauts to conduct second spacewalk on Sunday

 

“A lot of the detail that we don’t get today on the elements of these different planets; Webb will be able to provide,” says Robinson. “That will open some doors and some minds.”

 

All of this work is taking place while the telescope is tearing through space, more than 1 million km (625,000 mi.) from Earth, about 70% of the way to its L2 destination; which it is set to reach on January 23.

 

Once there, it will take advantage of the delicate gravitational balance of the sun and the Earth and begin orbiting around an invisible point as if it were orbiting a solid body like a planet; always keeping its giant kapron shield facing the sun, ensuring that the mirror remains ultra cold.

 

On-board cryogenic systems will contribute to that natural cooling; bringing some portions of the telescope to temperatures as low as 7 kelvin (-266º C, -447º F)

 

None of the discoveries Webb could make will come quickly.

 

The telescope’s flight plan calls for it to take a full six months or so after launch before it is fully opened up; booted up and ready to work.

 

For Webb, the landmark moment known as “first light;” when a new telescope opens its eye and begins gazing about at the universe surrounding it; will come in late June or early July.

 

“We had a big gift on Christmas day,” says Robinson. “Maybe our next big gift will come on the Fourth of July.”

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Nnamdi Kanu chose to appear in same attire because ‘it is designers’ – FG tells court

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Despite the order of Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja, the leader of the Indigenious People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, on Wednesday, appeared on the same Fendi designers clothes he had been wearing since June last year when he was arrested.

Justice Nyako had on Tuesday, ordered the Department of State Services, to allow Kanu to have a change of cloth.

“I don’t want to see him in this cloth again. This one is almost off-white. Also, make sure that you allow him to exercise and give him a good mattress”, Justice Nyako had ordered.

Meanwhile, when the matter was called up on Wednesday, the prosecution counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, told the Court that Kanu was the one that chose to wear his designer Fendi clothes.

He said, “My lord, based on your order yesterday, we provided the defendant with a new Orthopedic mattress, pillows and blankets.

“As for his appearance, he chose to wear this particular one because he said that it is designers”.

In his response, Kanu’s lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, told the Court that it was not true that his client insisted on wearing his designer’s clothes.

“My Lord, what happened was that by the time proceedings ended yesterday, and because it was not his visiting day, we were not able to pass to him, some clothes we obtained for him.

“We even discussed it with him this morning and he said that on the next visiting day he would want to have the new clothes”, Ozekhome added.

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He however commended the DSS for providing the IPOB leader with new mattress and pillows.

“I want to commend the DSS and the Court for ensuring that it was done”, Ozekhome said.

Before allowing Kanu to be re-arraigned on the amended 15-count treasonable felony charge the Federal Government preferred against him, Justice Nyako reiterated her demand for the defendant to have a change of clothes.

Kanu is currently entering his plea to the fresh amended charge against him which borders on his alleged commission of acts of terrorism, felony, incitement, unlawful importation of a radio transmitter, and headship of an illegal organization.

Already, the DSS had before Kanu was ushered into the courtroom around 10:15 am, produced several documentary evidence, including electronic devices it would use to play some of the alleged inciting broadcasts that were made by the Defendant.

Details soon…

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[BREAKING] Nnamdi Kanu: FG brings documentary evidence to court

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File: Leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu

The Federal Government may today (Wednesday) open the trial of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu on the terrorism charges after his formal arraignment.

reports that exhibits likely to be tendered against Kanu by the government have been brought to the courtroom where the arraignment is scheduled to hold today.

Also, electronic equipment comprising various cameras have been brought to court and being inspected by the lead counsel to the Federal Government, Shuaib Labaran.

Kanu has just been brought into the courtroom exchanging pleasantries with his lawyers led by Mike Ozekhome (SAN).

Similarly, family members of the Biafran leader including a nursing mother have taken their seats in the courtroom.

A representative of the British High Commissioner billed to watch the trial for the United Kingdom has also been allowed into the courtroom.

Details later…

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NIPOST growth thwarted by 28 years exclusion from capital projects – Postmaster General

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From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

...master General/CEO of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), Dr Ismail Adebayo Adewusi, on Tuesday lamented exclusion from capital projects and absence of budget that has grossly impeded the growth and development of the Nigerian postal service.

Mr Adewusi spoke at a media parley to mark the 2nd anniversary of his appointment held in Utako, Abuja.

According to the PMG, the negligence of ...al Service has slowed its evolution and is responsible for its dilapidated structures across the nation.

He, however, praised President Muhammadu Buhari for the initiative to unbundle NIPOST. This, he explained would enable ...al Service to fully utilise all its assets scattered all over the country to maximise revenue generation.

He said the restructuring would see to the emergence of a NIPOST Property Company which would be highly commercialised and would oversee the massive renovation of the structures.

“NIPOST has not had a budget or benefited from capital projects in the past 28 years. This is why our infrastructure across the country is dilapidated. It has not been easy at all. But we have to appreciate the President or the policy to unbundle NIPOST. It is an initiative that will commercialise most of our processes. Our new NIPOST Property Company will be saddled with the responsibility of renovating the NIPOST facilities across the nation. Most of the facilities that you see that are dilapidated will then be taken over by the new NIPOST Property company,” he stated.

Speaking on the issue of unauthorised courier operators parading the nation, the NIPOST boss disclosed that information reaching him showed that some of the bikes across the major cities were being used to transport and sell hard drugs. He assured that the organisation will not rest until it had eliminated unlicensed operators and people who do illegal businesses through Courier.

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“I wish to inform you today, that after nineteen (19) years, a new Courier Regulations, more in tune with the new order and way of doing business, was presented, and approved for the regulation of the courier industry. The last such review of the Regulations was in 2001.

The new Regulations empowers NIPOST to regulate the courier and logistics industry, checkmate the activities of illegal and nefarious logistics and courier companies in the country. The new Regulations would sanitize the logistics ecosystem and put in check dubious activities of the criminal-minded operators.” He announced.

The PMG recounted the various giant strides undertaken by NIPOST in the last two years even in the face of insufficient funding challenges. Part of these he mentioned were the efforts to digitalise NIPOST’s processes and services. He further reiterated his commitment to achieving full digitisation for the organisation.

He said, “In a bid to expand the frontiers of NIPOST products and services, a B2B agreement was signed with eGATE of Egypt on digital transformation. With this agreement, job opportunities will be created. It will also help to address the infrastructure gap in the organization, as well as reposition NIPOST on the path of full digitalisation. It would interest you to note that the new addressing system, that is, the Digital Addressing system, is being developed as a strategic infrastructure for national development. It will facilitate mail handling, identify locations precisely, ensure consistency in address related databases and enable efficient services in government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses in a consistent manner.

He listed others to include: Western Union Money Transfer which commenced pilot operations in Lagos in 2020; reconciliation of account with Cameroon Post (Campost), culminating in the resumption of international remittance transactions which, has accrued over N10 million in revenue;

Others are; joining of UPU Clearing House, to facilitate the expansion of remittance transaction beyond the Cameroon Nigeria corridor; roll out of co-branded credit/debit card with Data Mining; payment services partnership, with System Specs, which allows NIPOST to carry out bill payment using Remita on its counters and promotion of NIPOST card for seamless IFS transactions with more UPU member countries, among others.

“Given the modest achievements we have recorded in the last two years of my administration; it is my candid belief that we are on the right track and determined to reposition NIPOST to an enviable height for effective service delivery to the citizenry. As we braced up to confront emerging challenges in the digital world, NIPOST is working assiduously to remain a veritable force, one to reckon with in the courier and logistics industry. We will be available to work in partnership with other related agencies, both government and private sector, to ensure we provide reliable and efficient services for the socio-economic development of our country.” Adewusi said.

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