NASA Rededicates Flying Observatory on Lindbergh Anniversary
May 21, 2007
NASA Headquarters, Washington
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
Waco, Texas – Monday, NASA dedicated a unique astronomy aircraft to
pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh on the 80th anniversary of his
historic transatlantic flight. Erik Lindbergh, the pilot's grandson,
joined NASA for the event May 21, in Waco, Texas.
NASA's new Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is
a highly modified 747 airliner that carries a 45,000-pound infrared
telescope system. Pan American Airways originally christened the
plane the "Clipper Lindbergh" in 1977. At the rededication ceremony,
NASA officials discussed the similarities between Lindbergh's
accomplishments and SOFIA's potential to capture scientifically
important infrared images unavailable to earthbound telescopes. The
SOFIA aircraft was modified at L-3 Systems in Waco and is wrapping up
a series of functional checkout flights before heading to NASA's
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for
further tests and systems integration.
Erik Lindbergh unveiled a plaque commemorating Clipper Lindbergh.
"This project is a fantastic blend of a 20th century legacy aircraft
and a 21st century platform for exploration," he said.
Intended to fly above 40,000 feet, SOFIA will place its infrared
telescope above nearly 99 percent of the Earth's atmospheric water
vapor, greatly enhancing its abilities to study the cosmos. Its
state-of-the-art telescope will be able to carry out scientific
missions with greater flexibility and ease of upgrade than a
NASA's partner in SOFIA is the German Aerospace Center, which provided
the telescope. NASA modified the aircraft. A 16-foot-high opening has
been cut into the aft fuselage to permit observations to be made at
altitude. Once it arrives at Dryden, SOFIA will continue flight and
systems testing for about two years while its observatory system
hardware and software are integrated with the aircraft. The
telescope's first images are expected in 2009.
See also the NASA Dryden home page.
Erik Lindbergh unveils a plaque commemorating his grandfather to dedicate the 747 Clipper Lindbergh, a NASA airborne infrared observatory known as SOFIA. (Tom Tschida / NASA)
Erik Lindbergh christens NASA's 747 Clipper Lindbergh with a special commemorative concoction representing local, NASA, and industry partners. (Tom Tschida / NASA)
Ann Morrow Lindbergh, widow of aviator Charles Lindbergh, at the dedication of the Boeing 747SP Clipper Lindbergh into commercial service with PanAm, in New York on May 21, 1977, 50th anniversary of Lindbergh's solo crossing of the Atlantic. The same aircraft has now become SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
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January 15, 2008