I have arrived here in Palmdale, CA. This is a new place forme, so it has a share of expectations. Palmdale, just 50 miles north-east-ishof Los Angeles is home to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility or DAOF, forshort. Upon arrival, I learned that NASADryden Flight Research Center itself is about another 40 minute drive away, sotime permitting, I’d like to check out that sister center.
I’ve rendezvoused with two colleagues from Cornell andIthaca College who have both flown on SOFIA and also have put in so many hoursto make the FORCAST instrument a success. They are eager to get back tooperations & science observations again. I’ve also met two graduate students, one who has flown already andanother, just as green-as-me, this being his first time to Palmdale andchecking out the *Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy* forhimself.
Today marks a specialoccasion for me to see SOFIA in all her shiny-white-paint with an organized crewgetting her ready for this week of line operations, or line ops. The reality isintense. One can read about things on the internet or in papers, but toactually see the physical metal,glimpse at her sleek curves, observe the crews keeping her safe and airworthy,is something else. And that’s just the outside.
The scienceinstrument FORCAST, a mid-infrared instrument, is already installed and had itslatest cryogen fill this morning.
Tonight, line operations are scheduled from 11pm-5am and Ican share what I learn. Until then,pieces of the complex set of what goes into operating a facility such as SOFIA,are slowly coming into place.
For now, I just cannot help staring at this amazing beauty.
747SP, the SP means “Special Performance.”