Дата: 01-07-22 09:46
Congress Is Worried About NASA"s Decision To Retire The SOFIA Boeing 747
NASA will end the SOFIA mission before October.
The United States House of Representatives is concerned by NASA’s decision to terminate the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission. After twelve years of science, SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP airplane modified to carry a reflecting telescope, will be grounded no later than September 30, 2022, after its current mission.
Concerns about shutting down SOFIA
This month, the Committee of Appropriations from the House of Representatives submitted a report showing its concern about NASA’s decision to terminate the SOFIA mission without engaging in a senior review.
SOFIA is a joint project between NASA and its partners at the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) to observe the infrared universe and monitors events such as the formations of new stars and solar systems. It has been active since May 2010 and is famous worldwide because it employs a modified Boeing 747SP, registration N747NA, to fly around the world and collect data.
The Committee directed NASA “to report within 30 days of enactment of this Act on NASA’s strategy to mitigate the science and data collection that will no longer be produced by SOFIA, including any scientific capability gaps and any other information that normally would be considered as part of a senior review.”
NASA will also have to provide information regarding its detailed plan to discontinue the program and any further resources needed to ensure a smooth transition. The Committee will provide no less than USUSD 30 million for SOFIA to ensure an orderly close-out of the mission.
The last mission
In 2022, SOFIA has been predominantly in the Southern hemisphere. Earlier this year, NASA sent the Boeing 747 to Chile for the first time in its history.
Now, NASA sent SOFIA to New Zealand for a final time before shutting the program for good. This is the seventh trip to New Zealand to look at the Southern hemisphere skies. Between June 17 and 18, the aircraft flew from Palmdale, California, to Christchurch, New Zealand, via Honolulu, Hawaii.
NASA is planning 32 flights in this last international deployment. The plan is to observe a wide range of celestial objects and phenomena, including magnetic fields and cosmic rays.
"We are committed to delivering a strong finish for this unique astrophysics mission, from a place of strength and pride, by giving our scientific community as much data as possible from the Southern Hemisphere."WE’RE BACK! SOFIA has landed in Christchurch, New Zealand for observations from the Southern Hemisphere. This is our seventh and final New Zealand deployment. ✈️ 🌌 pic.twitter.com/RjtCLhDXuo — SOFIAtelescope (@SOFIAtelescope) June 19, 2022
Why is NASA scrapping the project?
Despite the incredible appeal the Boeing 747 had for avgeeks everywhere, the project was too expensive.
As part of its review of the current state of astronomical research, the National Academies’ Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 evaluated SOFIA, said NASA.
The report concluded SOFIA’s science productivity does not justify its operating costs. Additionally, SOFIA’s capabilities do not significantly overlap with the science priorities the Decadal Survey has identified for the next decade and beyond.
Therefore, the Decadal Survey (which provides peer-reviewed recommendations to NASA for the future US astrophysics) recommended that NASA end the SOFIA mission. NASA and DLR accepted the recommendation.
NASA employed a Boeing 747, which was first built in the 1970s. It is currently 44 years old. This jetliner first came into service with Pan Am in 1977 before going to United Airlines in 1986. NASA acquired the superjumbo in 1997 and heavily modified it to prepare it for its new role carrying a reflective telescope.
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