“Don’t worry, that’ll buff right out.” Alarming news this week as the James Webb Space Telescope team announced that a meteoroid had hit the space observatory’s massive primary mirror. While far from unexpected, the strike on mirror segment C3 (the sixth mirror from the top going clockwise, roughly in the “south southeast” position) that occurred back in late May was larger than any of the simulations or test strikes performed on Earth prior to launch. It was also not part of any known meteoroid storm in the telescope’s orbit; if it had been, controllers would have been able to maneuver the spacecraft to protect the gold-plated beryllium segments. The rogue space rock apparently did enough damage to be noticeable in the data coming back from the telescope and to require adjustment to the position of the mirror segment. While it certainly won’t be the last time this happens, it would have been nice to see one picture from Webb before it started accumulating hits.
Also in space telescope news, Russia is apparently trying to hack a shut-down telescope back into operation. This is according to their bombastic space chief, Dmitry Rogozin, who said that he has issued instructions to Roscosmos to reactivate the German eROSITA X-ray telescope aboard the Russia-built and awesomely named Spektr-RG spacecraft. The Germans put the instrument into safe mode back in February, after it had completed only half of the full-sky surveys planned for it, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Officials at the Max Planck Institute, where eROSITA was designed and built, aren’t too thrilled with the attempted takeover, fearing that the instrument might be damaged in the process.
From the “Let’s All Dunk on Tesla” files, it looks like an Austrian security researcher has discovered a new way to steal a Tesla. The exploit uses a recent change to how Teslas can be started within 130 seconds of being unlocked with the owner’s NFC card, rather than having to place the card on the center console for a second authorization. But strangely, the car will accept new keys without authorization during that interval, and without flashing any kind of warning on the dash. That makes it possible for a thief to add their phone as a recognized key just by lurking nearby while the car is unlocked with an NFC card. Seems like this would be an easy enough fix, but Tesla doesn’t seem to like having these vulnerabilities pointed out, let alone do anything about them, so Tesla owners should probably avoid the NFC card and choose another method for unlocking their cars.
If you like shots of uncapped ICs as much as we do, you’re in for a treat with Zeptobars’ latest op-amp die shots. The subject is the National Semiconductor LH0042CH, a hybrid low-noise op-amp that actually had two dies inside the TO-9 can. The shots show the larger die containing the majority of BJT components, with a smaller die housing the JFET front-end circuitry. We love the way the two dies seem somewhat jauntily askew on the substrate, almost like they were just randomly thrown there. The SEM photos are gorgeous, especially the blown-up views of the bonding wires that almost look organic, like insect parts or something. It’s beautiful work, and a great look at a slice of electronics history.
And finally, from the, “Oh, hell no!” files, we present this automated nose-probing robot. The Korean nasopharyngeal sampling robot, obviously built to aid with COVID testing, is billed as “inherently safe.” While we can see that a small, lightweight robot with built-in force sensors would be much safer than a big general-purpose industrial robot for such a delicate task, we won’t be lining up to help prove it anytime soon. Although we have to say, we’ve heard enough horror stories about testing to believe that human swabbers are sometimes overworked, undertrained, or just plain pissed-off enough to do some real damage, so getting the human element out of testing might not be a bad idea.