Goodbye, Sofia: NASA ends the plane’s mission with a reflecting telescope after eight years of activity

Today, NASA and its partners at the German Space Agency (DLR) abort the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission. eight years of work,

this astronomical instrument It is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a reflecting telescopeBegan to be developed in 1996, saw its first light in 2010 and reached its full operational capacity in 2014.

Over the past eight years, he has observed the Moon, planets, stars and star-forming regions. Meanwhile, they also measured the galaxies’ magnetic fields and Water detected in sunlit regions on the Moon To complete your main quest.

In addition to achievements, was questioned several times Scientific balance of Sofia. In 2019, a NASA analysis warned that in its first six years it executed only 178 articles, a far cry from the 900 achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope during the same period.

its end money will be saved Being attached to an aircraft important to the US agency, its operation requires the involvement of pilots and the maintenance of the ship, therefore, since becoming active in 2014, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy has been operating for 800 scientific flights. Counts records.

in futureSOFIA data will be available in the public archives of NASA Therefore, the space agency will continue to advance scientific discovery in infrared astrophysics, for use by astronomers around the world.

Sofia's 'Dare'.
Sofia’s ‘Dare’.

The location of Hurricane Ian on September 26, 2022, approximately 190 km from Grand Cayman and about 310 km southwest of the westernmost tip of Cuba.

his great mission

On October 26, 2020, NASA said in a statement that SOFIA Water seen for the first time on the surface of the Moon Published by Surya.

In particular, it detected water molecules in Clavius ​​Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.

Paul Hertz (director of the Department of Astrophysics in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington) said in the statement that “this discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about relevant resources for deep space exploration.”

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SOFIA’s results build on years of previous research investigating the presence of water on the Moon, as well as Provided a new way of viewing satellites and was able to capture the specific specific wavelengths of water molecules.

Naseem Rangwala (SOFIA project scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California) explained that “this was the first time SOFIA had seen the Moon and we weren’t even sure we’d get reliable data, but the question was about the Moon.” The water of K inspired us to try it. It is unbelievable that this discovery which was essentially a test,

Orion will launch next week inside the SLS Mega rocket.

Why is NASA retiring SOFIA?

NASA and DLR show that high bill And this poor scientific performance Sofia is the main reason to return.

It’s been eight years of service, though service life was 20 yearsBut the findings are not in line with the space agency’s investments and plans.

NASA devotes approximately $85 million annually to its operations (similar to the Hubble budget), however, SOFIA receives funding from the German Aerospace Center (it contributes 20% of the operational bill).

The proposals will serve as a test of how prepared countries are to face the threat of confrontation.

dissatisfaction of scientists

Walther Pelzer (head of the German space agency) told Nature that SOFIA It is a “globally unique” resourceAs the Boeing 747SP was modified to open a hole in its side and to take advantage of the lack of water vapor, a 17-ton telescope was attached to study the universe during maneuvers at multiple altitudes.

Currently, SOFIA is the only observatory that can perform analysis in certain wavelengths of the far infrared, moreover, the announcement of its retirement has generated Reviews that highlight its technical capabilities and ongoing programs That they were taking advantage of your data.

Paul Lucy (University of Hawaii) says that “closed bad for science and Linares exploration. There are no observatories or spacecraft capable of mapping the water molecule on the moon illuminated”, meaning that there is no space instrument capable of carrying out its mission.

Alberto Valdes

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