Ball Aerospace optical technician Scott Murray inspects six primary mirror segments, critical elements of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, prior to cryogenic testing in the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The James Webb Space Telescope will be launched in 2014 to study the formation of the first stars and galaxies and shed new light on the evolution of the universe.
The mirror segment, an engineering development unit and flight spare, has been coated with an ultra-thin layer of gold to ensure that infrared light is properly reflected from the primary mirror into the observatory’s science instruments. The primary mirror engineering development unit will be closely followed by the other 18 primary mirror flight segments in the coating process.
During cryogenic testing, the mirrors are subjected to extreme temperatures dipping to -415 degrees Fahrenheit, which permits NASA contractor engineers to measure in extreme detail how the shape of the mirror changes as it cools — just as each mirror will change shape over a range of operational temperatures in space. The cryogenic test series helps NASA predict how well the telescope will image infrared sources in those conditions.
Editor’s Note: I’m not sure exactly where over Earth this was taken, but wow, what beautiful azure waters!
In the grasp of the International Space Station’s Canadarm2, the Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) is moved from the space-facing side of the Harmony node back to the Earth-facing port of Harmony. HTV-2 had been moved to the top of Harmony prior to space shuttle Discovery’s arrival for the STS-133 mission. The HTV-2, loaded with trash and materials no longer needed by the station crew, will be unberthed for the final time on March 28 and deorbited the following day. Earth’s horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for the scene.
Image credit: NASA
Millennium Island is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 20 crew member on the International Space Station. Millennium Island — known as Caroline Island prior to 2000 — is located at the southern end of the Line Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. This uninhabited island is part of the Republic of Kiribati, an island nation comprised of 32 atolls (including Millennium Island) and one raised coral island. Millennium Island is formed from a number of smaller islets built on coral reefs. The coral reefs grew around a now-submerged volcanic peak, leaving a ring of coral around an inner lagoon. The islands above the waterline are composed primarily of limestone rock and sand derived from the reefs. At a maximum height of approximately 6 m above sea level, Millennium Island has been identified as being at great risk from sea level rise by the United Nations. The islets of Millennium Island are readily visible in this photograph as irregular green vegetated areas surrounding the inner lagoon. The shallow lagoon waters are a lighter blue than the deeper surrounding ocean water; tan linear "fingers" within the lagoon are the tops of corals. The two largest islets are Nake Islet and South Islet, located at the north and south ends of Millennium Island respectively. The ecosystem of Millennium Island is considered to be relatively pristine despite periods of human habitation, guano mining, and agricultural activities, and the island has been recommended as both a World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve.
Image credit: NASA
The space shuttle Atlantis is seen over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station at 10:07 a.m. (CDT). Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft which is docked to the station is in the foreground.