Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Sometimes the scientific process takes an unexpected turn and tonight was one of those times. Takeoff for our third commissioning flight on SOFIA was at 7:35 PM Pacific time. The flight manifest included NASA scientists and engineers, the Ithaca College and Cornell University FORCAST team members, journalists from an LA-area newspaper, and four public school science educators on board as part of the SOFIA Airborne Ambassador outreach program. Our flight plan took us on a tour of the american west and mid-west at an altitude of 39,000 feet and we were making good progress with tests of our camera when the telescope power system bagan to show low voltage levels. After only half of our flight, and just before our scheduled spectroscopic tests, the mission director made the decision to return to the SOFIA base in Palmdale since flying with the telescope underpowered could damage the system. Fortunately Casey Byrne got a little time at the controls of the data analysis computer to see the culmination of his work at IC over the past two years. He also spent some time with the Airborne Ambassadors, answering questions and explaining the work we were doing on the flight.
IC student, Rob Lewis (Physics '13) arrived in time to watch SOFIA takeoff and will pick up where Casey left off on this Thursday's flight. We're optimistic that the power system will be back to 100% and Rob will complete the tests we had scheduled for tonight.
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