Say your goodbyes now to what is perhaps the oddest, most successful Earth-based NASA telescope of all time.
NASA may be sending SOFIA, a flying telescope mounted on a Boeing 747 plane into early retirement. It is one of the casualties of an otherwise stellar budget proposal for the fiscal year 2021, the agency announced Monday.
SOFIA has spent nearly 10 years of observing planets, comets and asteroids in our Solar System.
But despite a whopping $25 billion ear-marked for the agency a 12 percent increase from this year’s NASA budget SOFIA did not make the cut.
Most of the money is instead directed towards a new era of space travel, marked by upcoming missions to return humans to the Moon and to Mars.
SOFIA launched in 2010, with the plan to keep it flying until the early 2030’s. But NASA’s 2021 budget proposal calls for its complete elimination from our skies.
As far as telescopes go, SOFIA is pretty strange. The observatory is based on a modified airplane, a Boeing 747SP. But unlike the planes we crowd on, this one has a single passenger a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope. SOFIA flies for 10 hours at a time before landing so a ground-based crew can maintain its instruments.