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NASA To Cryogenically Freeze Satellite Mirrors

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the ain't-it-cool dept.

NASA 47

coondoggie writes "NASA said it will soon move some of the larger (46 lb) mirror segments of its future James Webb Space Telescope into a cryogenic test facility that will freeze the mirrors to -414 degrees Fahrenheit (~25 K). Specifically, NASA will freeze six of the 18 Webb telescope mirror segments at the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility, or XRCF, at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in a test to ensure the critical mirrors can withstand the extreme space environments. All 18 segments will eventually be tested at the site. The test chamber takes approximately five days to cool a mirror segment to cryogenic temperatures."

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Cryo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30703608)

First! ...In line to be frozen at the moment of my death.

Re:Cryo! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703642)

First! ...In line to be frozen at the moment of my death.

You want to die by freezing? Doesn't sound very nice to me.

Re:Cryo! (4, Informative)

MstrFool (127346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704564)

May want to look into it more then. Freezing to death is one of the more pleasant ways to go. It does suck for a bit as you start getting too cold, but then after a while you start to feel warm again. At this point you start to feel rather detached and dreamy. Most people that have been brought back from cold water drownings or hypothermia report the same things. Having nearly frozen to death on a hike I can confirm just how pleasant it was, up to the point that it finally sank into my head I was freezing to death and managed to get to warmth. Now, I'm not recommending it to folks, even if I do know a few that would benefit from it... But, as far as death goes, it is one of the more comfortable ones.

Re:Cryo! (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704758)

That's one thing I don't understand about the expensive drugs they use to execute people. They've been said to be quite painful when they don't work right.

Junkies kill themselves with heroine all the time. $40 of heroine all at once will knock your ass out and stop your heart, essentially painlessly.

Aside from heroine, I can think of quite a few cheaper ways to painlessly kill a person. Carbon monoxide overdose is another way. You basically fall asleep and your brain dies from lack of oxygen. This is super cheap.

Some states probably spend millions of dollars keeping staff, equipment, materials, procedures, etc. on hand and updated and still they end up in court because lethal injection doesn't always work right. They could save a fortune, and it's better(in relative terms) for the prisoner. They may still die, but they can do it comfortably and it costs us all a hell of a lot less money.

Re:Cryo! (1)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704994)

Carbon monoxide overdose is another way. You basically fall asleep and your brain dies from lack of oxygen. This is super cheap.

I didn't quite like the smell of the smoke that comes with it. It took me three whole bags of charcoal to kill myself, but I guess it was all worth it.

Re:Cryo! (2, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30705098)

>i>"Some states probably spend millions of dollars keeping staff, equipment, materials, procedures, etc. on hand and updated and still they end up in court because lethal injection doesn't always work right."

Gaffa tape a hand grenade to their face an the won't feel a thing. Since such soultions are obvious I think the underlying argument is about the death penalty itself rather than the form of execution. It's a political argument and as such if you move the legal boundries even in very small ways then it's a "win".

I grew up in Australia, I was 8 when they hung Ronald Ryan [wikipedia.org] but still recall that adults were making a big deal about it. Sure some people deserve stringing up but it leaves no room for error and we all know the legal system is anything but error free. I agree with Albert Pierrepoint [wikipedia.org] who after hanging around 400 people (including a friend) came to the conclusion that capital punishment is not justice, it's formalised revenge. The only "just" way for the death penalty to actually be "just" is on the spot during the act, eg: the Somali pirates that were taken out by snipers.

Re:Cryo! (1)

t0p (1154575) | more than 4 years ago | (#30706268)

I agree. It's ridiculous to say the death sentence is fine but the prisoner should be killed humanely. There's nothing humane about execution. And if you truly believe that someone deserves to die, surely you want that person to suffer a bit? Otherwise where's the punishment?

Re:Cryo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30706658)

And if you truly believe that someone deserves to die, surely you want that person to suffer a bit? Otherwise where's the punishment?

Uhm, he's dead?

Re:Cryo! (1)

sveinungkv (793083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30710038)

I agree with Albert Pierrepoint [wikipedia.org] who after hanging around 400 people (including a friend) came to the conclusion that capital punishment is not justice, it's formalised revenge.

Just to be clear: Are you saying that it isn't just to formally revenge the victim? (Of course given that the real murderer is executed, that he got a fair trial, that the murder wasn't an accident etc) If you are saying that: what do you believe is just in a murder case?

Re:Cryo! (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30712884)

"Are you saying that it isn't just to formally revenge the victim?"

The answer depends on how you define [wikipedia.org] Justice [wikipedia.org] , I would define the implementation of justice as an act that restores, or adequately compensates for, what the victim has lost. Some deeds simply can't be undone or justly compensated for. Other than the poetic kind (and using my #def) there is no possible justice for the murder victim, although blood money may compensate the relatives for the loss of the victims material input, it does nothing for the victim.

The overused Gahndi quote sums it up best "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind". The victim and the murderer are both dead and (unless you believe in hell), are no longer suffering. The outcome for those still alive after the execution is a doubling of the number of families that are suffering a loss.

Since murder can't be undone the question then becomes one of can we do anything to the murderer to deter other would-be murderers, such as publicly hang, draw and quater him [wikipedia.org] followed by prominently displaying the butchered corpse at various public places? It's a logical idea that appeals to our base emotions but real world experience says it doesn't work as a deterent even for less passionate crimes such as drug smuggling.

"Of course given that the real murderer is executed, that he got a fair trial, that the murder wasn't an accident etc"

In the same manner that you can defeat terrorists without using their methods, you can punish murderers without killing them. Personally I think the state should set the example of - we only kill in self defence or defence of the innocent in mortal danger, but it's "you're country - you're rules".

None of the above means I think that murders don't deserve a bullet to the head but what we are given is the track record of the state/church/lynch-mob, It says that there is a very significant risk of inadvertently commiting the irreversible act you're trying to deter. IMHO and the opinion of the clear majority of nation states [amnesty.org] , it's an unacceptable risk.

I don't see the US joining the rest of the world in this "enlightened" view of capital punishment any time soon. A poll of SCOTUS a few years ago found that a majority of the SC Judges thought that shooting an unarmed fleeing thief was justifyable.

Re:Cryo! (1)

chaosdivine69 (1456649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30705270)

Ah, what a pleasant little morbid tangent I've stumbled upon right before bed: Hmmmm, lemme see - I've come up with some ideas to compliment your $40 heroine overdose or carbon monoxide love in... 1) Large black plastic garbage bag over the head & a roll of duct tape - use your imagination. Once you get your injection of heroine, you'll pretty much pass out or flake out, hell who knows what will happen to you but ya, the bag will do you in once you use up all your oxygen. 2) Pipe the CO into the plastic bag right along with taking your horse shot of poppy...hmmm, that might be tricky because you'll have to do that yourself with the bag already on your head...well if you're successful it should be a pleasant sleep you'll never wake up from...

That's fine. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30703612)

That's fine that they are testing them at a cryogenic test facility... just keep the mirrors away from other substances [wikipedia.org] that are probably frozen there. If not, they might get into a sticky situation.

X-ray and Cryogenic Facility, or XRCF (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30703646)

Leave it to the government to put two incongruous operations in the same facility. The cryogenic facility has to work doubly hard to compensate for all the heat coming from the x-ray group.

Wow... (1)

Dorsai65 (804760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703654)

Talk about getting a cold look....

Lets just hope (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30703656)

that they don't get their imperial units mixed up with metric units, and freeze the thing to -414C instead.

Re:Lets just hope (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703672)

that they don't get their imperial units mixed up with metric units, and freeze the thing to -414C instead.

Thinking about those lasers which are used to cool small particles to near zero temperatures. Can the photons from those lasers be considered to have a negative temperature, because of the energy they remove from the particles being cooled?

Re:Lets just hope (1)

Kr4u53 (955252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703806)

well, negative motion of particles is still motion nonetheless. Temperature isn't so much an energy gain / loss of a system. That's flux. Temperature is more of a measure of the movement / vibration per arbitrary number of particles. Heat is the energy dissipated by these movements / vibrations.

Re:Lets just hope (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703942)

Can the photons from those lasers be considered to have a negative temperature, because of the energy they remove from the particles being cooled?
Maybe [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Lets just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30704242)

I don't believe the photons can be considered to have a "temperature" at all, due to the definition of temperature being derived from the frequency of an atom's vibration.

Re:Lets just hope (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704516)

So, when people speak of the temperature of the cosmic microwave background, [nasa.gov] they're just confused?

Re:Lets just hope (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30704680)

So, when people speak of the temperature of the cosmic microwave background, [nasa.gov] they're just confused?

this is troll

Re:Lets just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30704744)

The cosmic microwave background temperature is in deep space. In the solar system, the temperature of space is higher because of the proximity of the sun and the higher number of particles from the solar wind, etc.

Re:Lets just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30707418)

No, the microwave background is INDICATIVE of an average temperature spread across the universe. The energy of a photon is determined by its frequency. The photons themselves do not have a temperature, but their energy (or, equivalently, frequency) can be used to determine the temperature of the atom that emitted them. Don't forget that space is not empty either. Those atoms do have heat and do release photons (and thus tell us about their temperature). See this wiki article for more [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Lets just hope (1)

dannyphantom (1716842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704360)

Hmmm interesting concept... I guess it could but don't take my word for it i've only read about them in a newspaper article I while doing papier machie...

Re:Lets just hope (1)

MstrFool (127346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704598)

I wouldn't think so. At least not any more then a speaker can be considered to create negative sound when it is used for phase cancellation in noise canceling headphones. Or that one truck can be said to have a negative velocity when it impacts an other truck heading in the other direction and they both stop dead. But then this is just my personal opinion YMMV.

Re:Lets just hope (1)

div_B (781086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30705156)

Thinking about those lasers which are used to cool small particles to near zero temperatures. Can the photons from those lasers be considered to have a negative temperature, because of the energy they remove from the particles being cooled?

Not really... negative temperature can be a 'meaningful' concept in some scenarios, but it's not necessary to invoke it here. Temperature is a property of an object such that two objects in contact (or exchanging radiation, etc) with different temperatures will exchange energy (heat) so as to try and 'meet each other in the middle', i.e., hot one loses energy to the colder one until the the temperatures become equal. Basically the character of laser beams is that they are not-very-thermal-at-all, so you can think of the incident beam as having some temperature very close to absolute zero, much less than the particles they're being shone on. Statistically speaking, the temperature of the particles will lower towards that of the incident laser beam, and the scattered laser photons will be 'heated', and carry away some of the original thermal energy of the cooled particles.

Re:Lets just hope (-1, Redundant)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704778)

You realize that's impossible, right? 0K (abs. 0) is -273C.

I don't know if you were trying to make a joke or not, but the humor is going to be lost on pretty much anyone that knows anything about chemistry or physics. Furthermore, the unit snafu wasn't NASA, it was Lockheed Martin. NASA just got the blame for it because no one really bothered to actually look up what happened.

Re:Lets just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30721396)

What in the hell dipshit modded this guy redundant? No one else has pointed this shit out yet.

Re:Lets just hope (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30706176)

I'd say the Nobel prizes in physics they'd get from it would more than make up for their little "accident". The odds are about as good as accidentally making FTL travel though.

It seems off... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30703944)

Is it just me or is that impossibly cold? I thought 0 Kelvin was absolute 0... I was pretty sure you couldn't go below it without taking the experiment out of the known universe entirely.

So are these going to be zero-point mirrors?

Re:It seems off... (3, Informative)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704010)

It says ~25K not -25k. The tilde (~) usually means approximately [wikipedia.org] in written English.

Re:It seems off... (2, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704466)

It's possible they meant it as a logical tilde, and it could be a temperature other than 25K.

that will freeze the mirrors to -414 degrees Fahrenheit (not 25 K).

(((-414 - 32) * 5) / 9) + 273 = 25.2

Shucks. They probably meant your thing.

Re:It seems off... (1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30707138)

not to be a pedantic fuck, but the conversion from C to K is 273.15 which changes your answer to 25.372

sorry, I just couldn't resist

Re:It seems off... (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30707462)

But the 5/9 bit is exactly right on, though... *cough*

Re:It seems off... (1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30711828)

yup: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_conversion

Re:It seems off... (2, Funny)

MstrFool (127346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704660)

Well, at the time they came up with 0-k, they thought so as well, as that is the point that atomic motion stopped. Then they went and discovered that while atomic motion stopped at that temp, sub atomic motion did not. They went on further to discover that they could 'cool' things further and reduce/stop some of the sub-atomic motion. I think they have given up on a true absolute-zero at this point, and simply use it as an arbitrary point where one is needed. Until they can find the smallest bit that makes up what we call reality and see what temp it stops at, we'll never know the true absolute-zero, and I think scientists are finally getting tired enough of looking like fools for shouting to the world they have found it, then some one else getting even farther a few years later. Took a while, but pattern recognition seems to be setting in. There is little that scientists seem to love more then showing up each other, and making a claim of finding an absolute anything that can not be passed or gotten around is a bit like visiting a wolf pen while wrapped in fresh raw steak.

Re:It seems off... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30704702)

Bravo. I was going to wait until you got modded informative but it's midnight and I'm going to sleep.

Re:It seems off... (4, Informative)

div_B (781086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30705296)

Well, at the time they came up with 0-k, they thought so as well, as that is the point that atomic motion stopped. Then they went and discovered that while atomic motion stopped at that temp, sub atomic motion did not. They went on further to discover that they could 'cool' things further and reduce/stop some of the sub-atomic motion. I think they have given up on a true absolute-zero at this point, and simply use it as an arbitrary point where one is needed.

This is really wrong. Temperature has a precise mathematical definition (relation between system energy and entropy), which is universal. Applied to most systems, this yields the concept of temperature familiar from everyday life. Indeed, some systems are such that they can be manipulated to a state of `negative temperature', in the formal mathematical sense. However it is definitely not the case that the concept of absolute zero is tied to the motion of atoms in particular, or that it is merely 'a reference point' that has later been surpassed.

(I kinda hope you're just trolling, otherwise please just STFU when you don't know WTF you're talking about. )

Re:It seems off... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30705462)

Wooooosh

Physics is Complicated... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30707566)

Physics is one of many fields where the more you study the closer you come to reality: you use more primitive models when you begin your study and each year after that you learn that the model you learned last is an approximation of something else. Perhaps it's a fitting way to learn, given that it's how the field develops, or perhaps it isn't, but please don't tell people to STFU because they're wrong; what they know may be a far better approximation of the truth than what most people know, and we want people with a less thorough background to feel comfortable talking in their communities about what they've learned, even if it's a model a professor short-on-time gave them to understand a concept. A pound of honey, as they say--if we insult everyone who doesn't know everything about physics but decides to talk about it, soon almost nobody will talk about physics. And not many people talk about it today.

~25K suggests Ne refrigerent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30704568)

Does any one know if they are using Ne?

Re:~25K suggests Ne refrigerent (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30707652)

Not sure, but their competitors will use Meh...

More Money Wasted (2, Funny)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30706962)

"The test chamber takes approximately five days to cool a mirror segment to cryogenic temperatures."

My ex could do it in about one and a half seconds with a single glare. Of course, then she'd have to bask on a rock for a couple of hours to recover.

Freeze - really? (1)

XSpud (801834) | more than 4 years ago | (#30707212)

As this summary has been tagged with 'science' I'd expect scientific terms to be used.

Are these mirrors actually liquid at room temperature, or perhaps the submitter meant 'cool' rather than 'freeze'?

Getting it right (2, Informative)

skoda (211470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30708450)

Unfortunately the article gets the technical aspects wrong.

NASA is not "freezing" the mirror segments to make sure they "survive" space.

The JWST will operate at a cryogenic temperature in space. The mirrors are measured at cryovac to guide the manufacturing process so they will have the correct optical prescription at the telescope's operational temperature.

Similarly, we're testing support optics, for the pre-launch JWST testing, at cryo. We'll have the first of a one set down to temp in short order.

To thaw in the future? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30709230)

It'll be interesting to thaw these mirrors 50 or 100 years into the future and see what they have to say about the past. Maybe then we'll have the technology to their cracks and heal them. Wait, what we were talking about again?
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