What would bring out 3,500 NASA AMES employees and their family and friends? Well, the world’s largest airborne observatory that they helped design and build. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne observatory is the worlds most heavily modified Boeing 747SP. And it came this past Monday to NASA AMES on a test flight and to be shown to the folks that helped give it life.
And after two fly-bys with a NASA F-18 Hornet acting as a photo chase plane, it touched down on 32R with a brilliant puff of smoke.
And after a long taxi down the West Parallel, SOFIA made a right 180 and parked at the base of the Tower.
NASA then opened her up for a tour of the 747SP and its’ 2.5-meter (98.4-inch) diameter infrared telescope.
Later that afternoon, I was able to get some air to ground shots of the 747SP SOFIA and the C-141 KUIPER with the AMES center in the background. The KUIPER, which was retired in 1996, was outfitted by NASA with a 0.9-meter (36-inch) diameter telescope and is SOFIA’s predecessor.
And then I was able shoot this special plane at night.
So many people here at AMES put in a lot of sweat and tears to see this project take to the skies, and this was a day for them. The line stretched outside the door, along the building and into the parking lot. A lot of people are very proud of this aircraft, and their hard work is reflected in the beauty and grace of this plane.
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