This NASA photo released on May 16, 2017 shows the primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope inside a cleanroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston,Texas Photograph:( AFP )
Unfolding of the pallets marks beginning of a crucial phase which will see James Webb Space Telescope deploy its sunshield
James Web Space Telescope has reached a milestone in its unfolding and this marks start of a crucial phase. James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on December 24 and is now in the phase of unfolding before it can start its function as most powerful eye in the sky of humanity.
On December 28 (Eastern Time), the space telescope deployed its forward and aft pallets. The pallet structures contain Webb's sunshield. Five carefully folded sunshield membranes have been packed inside the afts. Needless to say that delecate components like cables, pulleys and release mechanisms need careful handling.
NASA said that deployment of forward pallet began on the morning of December 28 and concluded at 1:21 pm EST. The aft pallet deployment was complete by 7:27 pm.
Although actual deployment of the pallets from their folded position took less than half an hour, the entire process took hours as series of complicated steps was involved during the deployment.
"The unfolding of the pallets marks the beginning of Webb’s major structural deployments and also the beginning of the sunshield deployment phase – which will continue through at least this Sunday, Jan. 2," says NASA
The James Webb Space Telescope, some three decades and billions of dollars in the making, left Earth on December 24 enclosed in its Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana.
It is expected to take a month to reach its remote destination.
It is set to beam back new clues that will help scientists understand more about the origins of the Universe and Earth-like planets beyond our solar system.
Named after a former NASA director, Webb follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hubble -- but intends to show humans what the Universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago.
(With inputs from agencies)