NASA's Retired SOFIA Aircraft Finds New Home at Arizona Museum
Washington DC--December 12, 2022. NASA’s now-retired Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft will find a permanent home in the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The airplane is expected to make its final flight from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, to Tucson on Tuesday, Dec. 13. It will land in Tucson at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base before ultimately arriving at the Air & Space Museum.
“The SOFIA mission has a powerful potential to inspire, from its discoveries about the unknown in our universe, to the engineering achievements that broke new ground, to the international cooperation that made it all possible,” said Paul Hertz, senior advisor for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are excited SOFIA will continue to engage a diverse new generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.”
The SOFIA aircraft is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a reflecting telescope. Engineering innovations enabled a large door in the fuselage to remain open while the aircraft was in flight, allowing the telescope to observe infrared light from the Moon, planets, stars, star-forming regions, and nearby galaxies. After a successful eight years of science, SOFIA completed its science program and ended operations Sept. 29, 2022.
To determine a new home for the plane after the end of the mission, NASA followed regulations for the disposition of excess government equipment. Pima, one of the world’s largest aerospace museums, is developing plans for when and how the SOFIA aircraft will eventually be on display to the public. Along with six hangars, 80 acres of outdoor display grounds, and more than 425 aircraft from around the world, Pima also has its own restoration facility where incoming aircraft like SOFIA are prepared for museum immortalization after their arrival.
At Pima, the plane will join other notable NASA aircraft, like the first Super Guppy that transported Saturn V rocket parts for the Apollo missions, and the KC-135 “Weightless Wonder V” that created low-gravity conditions by flying parabolic arcs – steep climbs and dives – to conduct science experiments and train astronauts. NASA plans to support the exhibition of the SOFIA aircraft with additional mission artifacts that speak to support the exhibition of the SOFIA aircraft with additional mission artifacts that speak to NASA plans to support the exhibition of the SOFIA aircraft with additional mission artifacts that speak to SOFIA’s legacy.
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SOFIA was a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR. DLR provided the telescope, scheduled aircraft maintenance, and other support for the mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley managed the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft was maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building
Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a non-profit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. As an integrated partner, USRA facilitates and amplifies partnerships between universities, the government and industry focusing on targeted activity for the purpose of planning and conducting future multidisciplinary research. It also operates scientific institutes and facilities, manages major research and educational programs. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.