Broadcast 1475 (Special Edition)

11 Dec 2010 Dr. Sean Casey
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Guest: Dr. Sean Casey. Topics: SOFIA project, airborne telescopes, ground based telescopes and infrared solar system research. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, We welcomed back Dr. Sean Casey to update us on SOFIA which is about to become fully operational. To learn more about SOFIA, its research and presentation opportunities. and even employment opportunities (SOFIA is hiring), please visit In addition, Dr. Casey has a site where you can explore much of what he talked about today and much more. Please visit During our first segment, Dr. Casey reintroduced us to SOFIA as much progress has been made with the project since he was last on The Space Show. He explained the characteristics of infrared solar system research, temperature ranges, problems with water vapor in the atmosphere and ground based telescopes, even in Hawaii and Chile on the tops of very high mountains such as the Atacama Telescope Project and Observatory and Mauna Key Observatories. He talked about the great research obtained from the NASA Kuiper Airborne Observatory over that project's 20 years so for those of you wondering about the science that stems from these great projects, listen carefully so you can fully understand the contributions to science and humanity stemming from these projects and their researchers. Dr. Casey explained the international partnership with Germany and the U.S., specifically NASA and the German Space Agency regarding SOFIA, the basing of the aircraft at Palmdale, CA, and the types of missions SOFIA will undertake. He explained the Boeing 747 SP modifications and testing program and why the observing would take place at altitudes around 41,000. We started the second segment talking about SOFIA employment opportunities and then Dr. Casey explained the flight and mission planning for SOFIA research flights. We talked about daylight observing as compared to nighttime observing and then Sean received a question about the stability of funding for SOFIA given so many uncertainties with NASA funding at this time. Later in this segment, Dr. Casey took an email question from Barbara in Portland, Or. asking about the relationship of SOFIA with the general public and inquiring as to the cost benefits of the project for the American tax payer. Dr. Casey carefully explained the research platform qualities of SOFIA and how this research is used not just by NASA, but in other mission work throughout our system. This then took us to the subject of SOFIA public and educational outreach. Make sure you check out this information on the SOFIA website. Sean was asked about a typical SOFIA mission and he said from takeoff to landing they were around ten hours. As we started the third segment of the program, Dr. Case outlined future plans for SOFIA through 2013-15. He said the basic science would be completed in 2011 with about seven hours of mission flight time. 2012 would see the finishing of the instruments and the observatory equipment and 2013-15 would see a ramping up of using the SOFIA platform for about 960- science hours per year. Toward the end of the program, a question came in about using the NewSpace suborbital space tourism vehicles for human tended research opportunities and as you will hear, Dr. Casey was very excited and optimistic about these emerging possibilities. He also answered a question often asked on the program about the need for a human tended experiment as compared to a sounding rocket experiment. See what you think of this response. I like it! For your questions and comments about this program, subject and for Dr. Sean Casey, please post them on the blog URL above. You can also email Dr. Sean Casey at



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