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Pima Air & Space Museum

Posted on February 23, 2024 by The Drive


The Boeing 747SP will be open for tours on select days this spring. Access is included with admission on these days: February 22 & 23; March 14, 16, 22, & 23; April 5, 6, 18, & 19 (weather permitting, subject to change). No registration required, purchase upon arrival. Tours will run continuously, lasting about 10 mins. SOFIA is located behind (south) of Hangars 4 & 5. Make sure to stop by there on your visit for a look inside the airborne observatory. This plane was heavily modified to house a nearly 20-ton telescope to explore space above 99% of the infrared blocking atmosphere. 

The SOFIA plane was basically a Boeing 747SP jet that got changed to carry a telescope. They made it so a big door could stay open while the plane flew, letting the telescope look at stuff like infrared light from the Moon, planets, stars, and galaxies. It did science for eight years and stopped on September 29, 2022.

NASA had to figure out what to do with the plane after it was done with its job. They followed rules for getting rid of government stuff they didn't need anymore. Pima, this huge museum for planes and stuff, is getting ready to show the SOFIA plane to the public. They have a bunch of space for planes and even fix them up before putting them on display.

The SOFIA plane will hang out with other cool NASA planes at Pima, like the first Super Guppy that carried parts for the Apollo missions, and the KC-135 "Weightless Wonder V" that flew in a special way to make low gravity for science and astronaut training. NASA will give Pima extra stuff related to SOFIA's missions to show with the plane.

SOFIA was a team effort by NASA and the German Space Agency. The Germans took care of the telescope and plane maintenance. NASA's Ames Research Center managed the whole project, with help from the Universities Space Research Association and the German SOFIA Institute. The plane was looked after by NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. SOFIA started working fully in 2014 and finished its last science flight on September 29, 2022.

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