back to article NASA's SOFIA aircraft preps for final flights ahead of mission end

The SOFIA aircraft has returned to New Zealand for a final time ahead of the mission's conclusion later this year. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft, designed to carry a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope into the stratosphere, above much of Earth's infrared-blocking …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Fun fact

    The original project scientist on SOFIA was previously working on a telescope on Hawaii and was on the flight that became a convertible mid-air.

    He survived relatively unharmed, obviously, but seemed to be pushing his luck proposing another aircraft with a sunroof

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Fun fact

      I wonder whet the 2nd hand value is for a 747 with a big hole cut in it.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Fun fact

        4th hand... the aircraft was owned by Pan Am, then United, then NASA.

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Fun fact

        My guess is that it'll go into storage in the boneyard. There may not be any current plans for it, but a hunk of hardware like this is well worth preserving, just in case.

    2. Matthew Brasier

      Re: Fun fact

      Many years ago I attended a session by my local Astronomy society where one of the scientists from SOFIA presented. Its a fascinating bit of kit and did some great work, but is somewhat hindered by NASA aircraft being legally registered as military aircraft, preventing it from flying over or near countries that are unfriendly with the USA.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Fun fact

        For complex funding reasons the plane was owned by NASA but operated by United Airlines.

        Astronomers asked if that meant they got airmiles. After a long and presumably expensive review the message came back that since it departed and arrived at the same place there were zero flight miles to claim

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fun fact

      I don't know the model, but my dad supported the originial back USAF version in the 1960's flying out of Ascencion and Kwajalein.. He said having a convertible was nice, but the weather at altitude was rather, rather chilly...and while you could do donuts, or rather fly in circles with the telescope pointing at a point in the sky, that was all you could do with it.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Fun fact

        The previous one was the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (a C141) and apparently there was an earlier model with a learjet history-of-airborne-astronomy-at-nasa

      2. AbnormalChunks

        Re: Fun fact

        From you description sounds like your Dad might have been involved with early RC-135 projects that eventually evolved into the RC-135S Cobra Ball. Not used for astronomy at all, rather IR cameras and telescopes to track missle launches

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Fun fact

          Resisting the obvious " I didn't know cobras had ...."

          There is an excellent Omegatau podcast on flying-the-kc-135s-cobra-ball

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    STL files to print the jet & telescope

    So for blokes with 3D printers, there's the resources necessary to print the jet & telescope in 1/200 scale at

    I stumbled across that by happenstance, so I figured I'd share.

  3. TVU Silver badge

    "NASA's SOFIA aircraft preps for final flights ahead of mission end"

    Sad to see it go given all the good science that it's done but it is hideously expensive to run and so the money would be better spent on new specialist satellites.

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