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Greg Robinson reluctantly repairs NASA's James Webb Space Telescope – La Ronge Northerner



In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope, the embattled project to build an instrument that could look at the oldest stars in the universe, appeared to be derailed. second.

The parts and instruments of the telescope were complete, but they had to be assembled and tested. The launch date was slipping further into the future, and costs, already approaching $8 billion, were rising again. Congress, which had provided several large batches of funding over the years, was unhappy that NASA was asking for more money.

That’s when Gregory Robinson was asked to take over as Web Program Director.

At the time, Mr. Robinson was Associate Deputy Administrator for Programs at NASA, which put him in charge of evaluating the performance of more than 100 science missions.

He said no. “I was enjoying my work at the time,” Mr. Robinson recalls.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, asked him again.

“He had a kind of confluence of two skills,” Dr. Zurbuchen said of Mr. Robinson. “The first is that he has seen many projects, including projects that have been in trouble. And the second piece is that he has the business of gaining trust between people. So he can get into a room, he can sit in the cafeteria, and by the time he leaves the cafeteria, he knows half the people.”

In the end, Mr. Robinson relented. In March 2018, he embarked on a mission to get the telescope back on track and into space.

“He twisted my arm to control Webb,” said Mr. Robinson.

His path to this role seemed unlikely.

At NASA, Mr. Robinson, 62, is a rarity: a black man among the agency’s top managers.

“The people who see me in this role are definitely an inspiration, and it’s also an acknowledgment that they could be there too,” he said.

He says there are many black engineers working at NASA now, but “certainly not as many as they should be” and most of them haven’t risen to a high enough level for the public to see, for example participating in press conferences as Mr. Robinson has followed up on Webb’s launch.

“We have a lot of things we’re trying to improve,” Mr. Robinson said.

Born in Danville, Virginia, along the state’s southern edge, he was the ninth of 11 children. His parents were tobacco farmers. He attended an elementary school for black children through fifth grade, when the school district was finally incorporated in 1970.

He was the only one in his family who pursued science and mathematics, with a football scholarship on his way to Virginia Union University in Richmond. He later transferred to Howard University. He received a BA in Mathematics from Virginia Union, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Howard.

He began working at NASA in 1989, following up on some friends who already worked there. Over the years, his jobs have included Deputy Director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Deputy Chief Engineer.

Webb’s assignment came amid poor publicity for the project.

The launch target date has been pushed back again, to May 2020 as of 2019. And NASA has created a review board of outside experts to advise on what needs to be done to get Webb to the finish line.

A month into Mr. Robinson’s term, a failed test provided a vivid illustration of the need for reform.

The spacecraft must withstand the strong vibrations of launch, so engineers test it by shaking it. When Webb shook, awkwardly, the bolts holding the telescope’s huge, fragile sun-shield cover exploded.

“It set us back months – about 10 months – that’s the only thing,” Mr. Robinson said. The launch date has been pushed back to March 2021, and the price has gone up by another $800 million.

The accident looked like a re Previous issues encountered by the Webb . project. When the Webb telescope was named in 2002, it had a projected budget of $1 billion to $3.5 billion for a launch early in 2010. When 2010 arrived, the launch date moved to 2014, and the telescope’s estimated costs rose to $5.1 billion . . After reviews found both the budget and schedule to be unrealistic, in 2011 NASA reset the program with a much higher budget of just $8 billion and a launch date of October 2018.

For several years after the 2011 reset, the software appeared to be in good shape. “They were cutting milestones,” Mr. Robinson said. “Really good table margin.”

But he added, “Things happen there that you don’t see. Ghosts always catch you, don’t they?”

For bolts that came off during vibration testing, it turned out that the engineering drawings did not specify how much torque to apply. That was left to the contractor, Northrop Grumman, to decide, and it wasn’t tight enough.

“You have to have specifications to make sure they are correct,” Mr. Robinson said.

The review board released its report, noted a series of issues, and made 32 recommendations. Mr. Robinson said that NASA followed them all.

One recommendation was to conduct an audit of the entire spacecraft to identify “embedded problems” – errors that went unnoticed.

Engineers checked blueprints and specifications. They have considered requisitions to ensure that what was ordered met specifications and that the suppliers provided the correct items.

“Multiple teams have been formed, led by the most experienced people,” Mr. Robinson said. “They really dug into the paperwork.”

For the most part, the hardware actually matches what was originally designed. Some things didn’t match – Mr. Robinson said none of them would lead to a fiasco – and those things were fixed.

When Mr. Robinson took over as program director, the efficiency of Webb’s schedule — a measure of how quickly work was done compared to what was planned — fell by about 55 percent, Dr. Zurbuchen said. It was, in large part, the result of human error that could have been avoided.

Dr. Zurbuchen said Webb’s team was full of smart and skilled people who had become wary of raising criticism. I credit Mr. Robinson with turning things around. Within a few months, efficiency reached 95 percent, with communications improved and managers more willing to share potential bad news.

“I needed someone who could get the team’s trust, and what we needed to find out was what was wrong with the team,” said Dr. Zurbuchen. “The speed at which he ran this thing was amazing.”

However, a number of new issues caused additional delays and cost overruns. Some, like the pandemic and a payload bay problem on the European-made Ariane 5 missile, were out of Mr. Robinson’s control. Additional human errors occurred, such as last November when the clamp securing the telescope to the launch mount broke, causing the telescope to vibrate without causing damage.

But when Webb’s Ariane 5 finally launched at Christmas, everything went without a hitch, and publishing since then has gone smoothly.

With the onset of feedback, the Webb Administrator will soon no longer be needed.

Mr. Robinson says, proudly, that he worked himself without a job.

“Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff.”

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Korea realises its ambitions and already travels to meet the moon – Atalayar



The Republic of Korea has been keen to demonstrate that it is in fact Asia’s fourth-largest space power and ranks just behind China, Japan and India in terms of space ambitions and development. 

With the launch of its first moon-bound probe, it has made it clear that although it is considered to be the world’s tenth largest economy, it is one of the seven nations globally with the greatest interest in outer space. The South Korean scientific spacecraft is called Danuri, which in English means “enjoy the moon”, weighs 678 kilos, is cube-shaped, measures 3.18 x 6.3 x 2.67 metres and, according to the Seoul government, cost 182 million dollars. 

PHOTO/KARI – The Danuri lunar probe carries six scientific instruments, weighs 678 kilos, is cube-shaped, measures 3.18 x 6.3 x 2.67 metres and has required an investment of 182 million dollars

In a way, Korea has followed in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates, which relied on Japan and its H-IIA rocket to send its first interplanetary probe, the Al Amal Mars spacecraft, to Mars. In the Korean case, it has chosen its great ally, the United States, and Danuri’s liftoff took place late on 4 August from the Cape Canaveral launch complex in Florida. A Falcon 9 vector from US tycoon Elon Musk’s SpaceX company was responsible for launching it en route.

The spacecraft took off on the same day that US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi arrived in Seoul to support the Asian country in maintaining a strong deterrent against North Korea and seeking its denuclearisation. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on 10 May, had the opportunity to speak to Pelusi by phone, thanking him for his gesture and explaining that Danuri will serve “to boost Korea’s space economy and scientific expertise”. 

If the probe succeeds in reaching lunar orbit, the Republic of Korea will become the seventh nation to explore the Moon in situ, as Russia, the United States, China, India, the European Space Agency and Japan have already done. But the South Korean mission is not an isolated initiative. “The first step of our national space exploration programme is the moon,” says Science Minister Lee Jong-ho. 

PHOTO/AP – The launch of the South Korean spacecraft into space from Florida coincided in date (4 August) with a quick visit to Seoul by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi

Hyundai and Kia to be on the moon in 2031

The president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Professor Lee Sang-ryool, has confirmed that “there are technologies we need to improve, but we can travel and land on the moon with our own capabilities”. Seoul aims to launch a lunar surface module together with a small rover by 2031.

And they are already working on it. On 27 July, the car manufacturers Hyundai and Kia signed an agreement with six Korean research institutes to develop robotic technologies to equip the country’s future space rover. The project is joined by Korea’s extensive space business network, which manufactures satellites and even the KSLV-II Nuri launcher, which successfully completed its second successful flight into space from the Naro space centre in southern Korea on 21 October

PHOTO/KARI – The KARI lunar exploration programme envisages the probe now launched, to be followed by a lander with a rover to investigate the soil of our natural satellite by 2030

Regarding the Danuri probe – also known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter or KPLO – the Korean Ministry of Science and Telecommunications has already verified its proper operational status in orbit and confirmed that “the solar panels are generating sufficient power and all on-board devices are working properly”. 

It is being monitored throughout the mission by NASA’s three Deep Space Network communications stations: the US station at Goldstone, California; the Australian station near Canberra; and the Spanish station located in the municipality of Robledo de Chavela, near Madrid. Korea also maintains partial contact with the probe via the large satellite dish it has built in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province.

Danuri will reach its long-awaited goal by the end of the year and not in about six days, the time it took the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 to travel nearly 400,000 kilometres. The reason is that the South Korean spacecraft does not follow a direct trajectory, which consumes a lot of energy. Instead, it flies in the direction of the Sun. It follows a so-called “lunar ballistic transfer” trajectory with low energy and fuel consumption, until it reaches the so-called Lagrange Point 1 (L1), located 1.56 million kilometres from our Blue Planet, where the Sun’s attraction is balanced by the Earth’s attraction. There it will slow down and be re-routed towards the Moon. 

PHOTO/KARI – The probe is being tracked by NASA’s three Deep Space Network communications complexes (Goldstone, Canberra and Spain’s Robledo de Chávela) along with Korea’s Yeoju

135 days to reach lunar orbit

It is a similar path to that followed by the small American probe Capstone. Weighing 25 kilos and launched into orbit by NASA on 28 June from New Zealand, it is scheduled to reach the moon on 13 November, i.e. it will take 136 days to reach the moon.

If the Danuri mission goes according to the calculations of the KARI engineers, the probe will be captured by the Moon on 16 December after 135 days, i.e. four and a half months after the start of its flight. On 31 December, it will be placed in a circular orbit at an altitude of a hundred kilometres above the lunar surface. Once it has stabilised and the six scientific instruments on board have been checked, the spacecraft will begin observing and collecting data in early January. 

PHOTO/KARI –  Danuri does not follow a direct trajectory. It flies on a low-energy, low-fuel-consumption lunar ballistic transfer flight on its way to LaGrange Point 1 (L1), where it will be re-routed to the Moon

One of the instruments has been provided by NASA. It is the ShadowCam camera, an evolution of the one on board the US Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe, launched on 18 June 2009, but about 200 times more sensitive. Its task is to map with a resolution of up to 1.7 metres per pixel the ground of the lunar regions at both poles that are always in shadow. The ShadowCam is intended to locate water ice deposits and other resources to help plan future manned missions and build sustainable bases.

ShadowCam and communications are not NASA’s only contribution. The Agency is providing technical assistance, navigation technologies and, in collaboration with the Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, a kind of interplanetary Internet to prevent disruption of transmissions to Earth. 

PHOTO/KARI – The president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Professor Lee Sang-ryool, says Korea needs to improve its space technologies, but can travel to and land on the moon with its own capabilities

The other four instruments are a magnetometer (KMAG) to track the magnetic field between the Earth and the Moon; a gamma-ray spectrometer (KGRS) to search for spontaneous gamma-ray bursts produced by massive dying stars; a wide-angle polarimetric camera (PolCam) to analyse the properties of grains deposited on the lunar surface. For the descent mission planned for 2031, it incorporates a high-resolution camera (LUTI), which will provide images for KARI technicians to determine the most suitable landing sites.

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Scientist's photo of 'distant star' was actually a slice of chorizo – USA TODAY



A French scientist apologized after tweeting a photo of a slice of chorizo that he claimed was a deep-space image of a “distant star” snapped by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Étienne Klein, a physicist and research director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared the spicy Spanish sausage shot on social media last week, applauding the “level of detail” it provided.

“Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail … A new world is unveiled everyday,” he posted on Twitter Sunday to more than 91,000 followers.

The first images from the $10 billion telescope – launched Dec. 25, 2021 – went viral throughout July when they were released to the public. The scientific marvel, a joint project involving NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, has traveled 1 million miles through space.

A few days after his post, Klein revealed the photo he tweeted was not from the world’s most powerful space telescope. He admitted he tweeted a slice of the reddish, speckled meat.

“When it’s time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day … beware, then, of them,” he played off in further tweets. “According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.”

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“I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images,” he wrote, as translated by Google.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

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Top Scientist Admits Webb Telescope Star Photo Was Actually Chorizo – PetaPixel



A prominent French physicist is apologizing after admitting that a viral “distant star” photo he shared on Twitter was not actually captured by the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) but was rather just a slice of chorizo pork sausage.

On July 31st, Etienne Klein, research director of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted the photo to his 90,000+ followers on Twitter and claimed that it was a new Webb telescope photo showing the closest star to our Sun.

“Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us,” Klein wrote in the Tweet (as translated by Google). “It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail… A new world is unveiled day after day.”

A screenshot of Etienne Klein’s Tweet.

The tweet went viral and was retweeted thousands of times as people marveled at the imaging power of the Webb telescope, which has been wowing the world with never-before-possible space photos, including shots of the oldest galaxies ever observed.

In follow-up tweets, Klein revealed that what he had Tweeted was just a slice of Spanish sausage.

“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy… Beware of it,” Klein writes. “According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth.

“In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images…”

After receiving angry backlash to his tweet, however, the scientist apologized a few days later for spreading “fake news” that confused quite a number of people, stating that it was just a joke that was intended to warn his followers to be cautious about photos seen online.

“I come to present my apologies to those whom my hoax, which had nothing original about it, may have shocked,” he writes. “I simply wanted to urge caution with images that seem eloquent on their own. A scientist’s joke.”

Prominent French physicist Etienne Klein. Photo by Thesupermat and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Klein also tweeted Webb’s recent gorgeous photo of the Cartwheel Galaxy, assuring his followers that the photo was “real this time.”

“This is the first time I’ve made a joke when I’m more on this network as a figure of scientific authority,” the physicist later told the Paris-based news magazine Le Point. “The good news is that some immediately understood the deception, but it also took two tweets to clarify, ”explains the researcher.

“It also illustrates the fact that on this type of social network, fake news is always more successful than real news. I also think that if I hadn’t said it was a James-Webb photo, it wouldn’t have been so successful.”

The James Webb Space Telescope launched in December 2021 and officially began making scientific observations on July 12th, 2022. Now the largest optical telescope in space, it is using its unprecedented imaging capabilities to capture pioneering astronomical and cosmological images, including shots of atmospheres of exoplanets as well as the first stars and galaxies created at the beginning of the universe.

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