NASA announces a quick return to the SOFIA Airborne Observatory flights

NASA hopes to resume flights of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy later this month. Earlier some scientists doubted the need to continue the project.

Representatives of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astro (SOFIA) program hope to resume flights to the air observatory soon. This was stated by Margaret Maiksner, Director of the SOFIA Research Mission in collaboration with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). “It is now planned that SOFIA will return to flight at the end of June,” said Maiksner during a presentation at the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Active efforts are now being made to resume air missions as soon as possible. This includes a “mandatory maintenance period” for the aircraft and its scientific instruments: tests using the HAWC+ infrared camera will begin first.

We remind you that the SOFIA Observatory has not flown for three months: the reason for the suspension of the program was the Coronavirus Pandemic. “The SOFIA team is trying to develop a plan that would allow us to conduct scientific operations, but also to have better solutions to ensure the safety of personnel during the pandemic,” said NASA Director Paul Hertz earlier.

Recently, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program has received special attention. As recently noted by researchers in the journal Nature, the relatively low performance of the observatory questions the need for further spending on this unique project. The Covid-19 pandemic and forced downtime only added oil to the fire.

It should also be noted that the issue of budget financing for the 2021 program has yet to be resolved: the soon resumption of flights may give the air observatory a trip to a new life.

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