Paul Hertz: NASA Seeks to Boost Scientific Productivity of ‘SOFIA’ Airborne Observatory

Jeff Brody

Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said the space agency plans to make some changes to the operations of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy aircraft to ramp up its scientific productivity, SpaceNews reported Wednesday.

“We will be making changes in the SOFIA project to improve its productivity and make it as responsive as it can be to community science priorities,” Hertz said Monday at the 234th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis. Hertz said one of the proposed adjustments is flying SOFIA at high altitudes more frequently.

“We’re going to complete the transition of SOFIA from a developmental mindset into an operational mindset that we anticipate will create a more productive science operations mode,” he added. The planned operational changes came after NASA completed two reviews that looked at the maintenance and science operations of the airborne observatory. 

SOFIA is a Boeing 747 aircraft that has a 2.5-meter telescope designed to gather high-altitude infrared observations. The aerial observatory secured $85.2 million in funds for fiscal year 2018.

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