Although NASA is publishing photographs to show the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope, preparations are underway for the final establishment of a Boeing 747-based Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia).
The closure was announced on 28 April, confirming that the scope of the modified Boeing 747 SP and its telescope will no longer be extended. The term of office will expire “until 30 September 2022” when the current term of office expires.
Sophia, a joint project of NASA and partners of the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), was on loan. Development began in 1996, the first light was seen in 2010 and the platform was announced to be fully operational in 2014.
Its five-year main mission was completed in 2019, and its three-year expansion will end this year.
“As part of its review of the current state of astronomical research, the National Academies’ Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 evaluates Sophia, ”NASA said.
The report states that Sophia did not justify operating costs and that her capabilities did not “significantly overlap” with the priorities identified in the study.
The SOFIA telescope looks out of the large gate of the trunk, near the tail. According to NASA, the observations are made as the plane flies between 38,000 and 45,000 feet, which is more than 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere, blocking infrared radiation.
The telescope’s instruments operate at near-, mid-, and far-infrared wavelengths, and the Boeing 747’s landing after each flight also allows engineers to service and upgrade the payload.
However, all good must stop. The value of the flying telescope has been questioned for a long time, especially compared to the quotations created by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Boeing 747SP itself dates back to 1977 and passed into the hands of Pan Am and United Airlines before it began adapting the aircraft to surveillance tasks (including cutting the large hull hatch).
The findings of the expedition included water discoveries on the Moon’s sunny surface in 2020. More flights to the observatory were planned before the end of the mission, including a short trip to New Zealand.
However, with nothing on NASA’s observatory budget and the DLR nodding, it looks like Sophia’s end is in sight. ®