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The Spoils of Spaceflight

Space-faring artifacts sold at an April auction drew bucks big and small

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Photo: Bonhams
Apollo 13 commander James Lovell and lunar module (LM) pilot Fred Haise marked up this page of their contingency checklist after an oxygen tank explosion forced the crew to move to the LM to survive their return to Earth. The LM power-down instructions they noted here and on two additional pages were radioed from Mission Control, in Houston, to conserve battery power for their four-day journey. The checklist sheets sold for $45 750.
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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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