NASA finally unfurled the James Webb Space Telescope! The JWST has been undergoing acoustic and vibration testing for months, but it’s been fully opened because now it’s time for the next phase of testing. That will take place at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. There, mission techs and scientists will test and calibrate the telescope’s instruments. The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to the Hubble telescope. Behold here the completely opened telescope mirror in all its glossy, high-tech beauty:
Bears a certain resemblance to an extremely sciencey daffodil. Image: NASA
While the JWST has yet to launch, there’s no turning back for Cassini: its flyby of Titan early this week altered its orbit in a way that means it can’t avoid crashing into Saturn this September. Starting April 26th, the spacecraft is scheduled to make a series of 22 dives between Saturn’s rings and its surface. Then its mission will end for good as Cassini crashes into Saturn. We’re sending it to dive into Saturn because scientists believe that environment would immediately kill any Earthly microbes that somehow managed to live through Cassini’s mission in some crevice on the orbiter. It’s better that we not accidentally contaminate Enceladus with Earthly lifeforms — that could cause headaches later.
“With this flyby [of Titan], we’re committed to the Grand Finale,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL, in a statement. “The spacecraft is now on a ballistic path, so that even if we were to forgo future small course adjustments using thrusters, we would still enter Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15 no matter what.”
And then there’s the bricks.
You’ve probably heard of rebar, those steel rods we use to reinforce concrete. You may also have heard of fiber-reinforced concrete. It’s cool stuff; we use it for bridges and other applications where extreme bending forces will be applied to the concrete, because the fibers make the concrete less likely to crack under the combined tension and compression. Some scientists figured out that by taking soil samples like Martian regolith, putting them in a mold and applying an amount of force equivalent to beating the daylights out of them with a ten-pound sledgehammer, they were able to produce rammed-earth (rammed-regolith?) bricks that held up better than fibercrete.
How? The iron oxide in the regolith fuses under the hammering, forming a mesh-like network of iron oxide “fibers” throughout the brick. Like fibercrete and rebar all in one. So, Mars colonists could make these bricks to construct homes and other facilities out of in situ materials — without having to ship massive amounts of building materials from Earth.
Now read: The 25 Best Hubble Space Telescope Images