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The Sunshield on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory—five layers of thin membrane that must unfurl reliably in space to precise tolerances. Last week, for the first time, engineers stacked and unfurled a full-sized test unit of the Sunshield and it worked perfectly.
The Sunshield is about the length of a tennis court, and will be folded up like an umbrella around the Webb telescope’s mirrors and instruments during launch. Once it reaches its orbit, the Webb telescope will receive a command from Earth to unfold, and separate the Sunshield’s five layers into their precisely stacked arrangement with its kite-like shape.
The Sunshield test unit was stacked and expanded at a cleanroom in the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California.
The Sunshield separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side and a cold side where the sunshine is blocked from interfering with the sensitive infrared instruments. The infrared instruments need to be kept very cold (under 50 K or -370 degrees F) to operate.   The Sunshield protects these sensitive instruments with an effective sun protection factor or SPF of 1,000,000 (suntan lotion generally has an SPF of 8-50).
In addition to providing a cold environment, the Sunshield provides a thermally stable environment. This stability is essential to maintaining proper alignment of the primary mirror segments as the telescope changes its orientation to the sun.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
For more information about the Webb telescope, visit:  www.jwst.nasa.gov or www.nasa.gov/webb
For more information on the Webb Sunshield, visit:  http://jwst.nasa.gov/sunshield.html
Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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Northern Somalia’s Cal Madow mountain range is pictured in this image from Japan’s ALOS satellite.

In contrast to the sparsely-vegetated majority of the country – typical of its semi-arid to arid climate – the mountain range is densely forested. In this image, the vegetated areas appear much darker.

The ecologically diverse region is home to a number of endemic plants species, as well as many rare animals. Unfortunately, the area lacks proper conservation and is threatened by deforestation and intensive livestock grazing.

The uplifted plateau to the south has the distinct pattern of water erosion from rivers and streams making their way towards the edges of the cliffs, before cascading down. There are numerous perennial and persistent waterfalls in this region.

In some areas, we can see where water continues to flow north across the coastal plain towards the Gulf of Aden (not pictured).

The Japanese Advanced Land Observation Satellite captured this image on 2 January 2011. ALOS was supported as a Third Party Mission, which means that ESA used its multi-mission ground systems to acquire, process, distribute and archive data from the satellite to its user community.

In April 2011 the satellite abruptly lost power while mapping Japan’s tsunami-hit coastline.  

This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

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Earth from Space is presented by Kelsea Brennan-Wessels from the ESA Web-TV virtual studios. In the one-hundred-thirteenth edition, visit the Cal Madow mountain range in northern Somalia.

See also Earth from Space: Cal Madow mountain range, Somalia to download the image.

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NASA has selected Wyle Laboratories, Inc., Houston, to support NASA’s flight programs and mission projects, providing support for multiple sustained project management, research and technology development capabilities that encompass all phases of mission and project lifecycles at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

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A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

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The Apollo 11 astronauts, left to right, Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the USS Hornet, listen to President Richard M. Nixon on July 24, 1969 as he welcomes them back to Earth and congratulates them on the successful mission. The astronauts had splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:50 p.m. EDT about 900 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying the astronauts into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 530 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.
> Apollo 11 and NASA’s Next Giant Leap
Image Credit: NASA

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Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun — and have come up nearly dry.

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Artist’s view of one of the first two Full Operational Capability satellites (SAT 5-6).

The pair will be launched together aboard a Soyuz rocket, joining the four Galileo satellites already in orbit. The launch is set for summer 2014, from Europe’s Spaceport, French Guiana.

The definition, development and in-orbit validation phases of the Galileo programme were carried out by ESA and co-funded by ESA and the EU.

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Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko imaged on 20 July 2014 by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow angle camera from a distance of about 5500 km. The three images were taken two hours apart and have a resolution of about 100 m per pixel.

Read more on the blog: Hints of features

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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