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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
An aluminum fork and can opener used by the first man to orbit the Earth for a full day, cosmonaut Gherman Titov, sold for $5490. While NASA designed new food packaging and freeze-dried meals for its astronauts, Soviet engineers made a different choice: They simply took a child’s fork to lighten the load. The items are framed together with two photographs signed in Russian by Titov.
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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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