Dear SOFIA: Where do I sign up?

Posted on November 22, 2009


My dad, when not engaged in shooting fierce muskies, worked on NASA’s Space Program, doing mysterious programming things connected with the Shuttle.  Thanks to The Muskinator, I signed up for the NASA newsletter.  That’s where I learned that ingenious tinkerers have modified a Boeing 747 into a giant flying telescope (SOFIA seeks secrets of planetary birth).  SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) will travel 45,000 feet above the earth, sending back crisp photos of celestial phenomena, unencumbered by the veil of mist that blurs the view of earthbound scopes. 

This is amazing.  If it were April 1 I might think it’s NASA’s little joke, but no.  SOFIA will be a nimble bird, moving to where the interesting stuff is, darting around and about much like a blogger in pursuit of signs of spring, lens plastered to face. 

My first reaction was Holy Wah!  I’d buy tickets to that!  Then I read, “Plans are in the works for writers and teachers to be invited to join scientists with SOFIA up where the air is thin.”  Where do I sign up? 

I think it would probably be cool to fly a plane, but I’m not motivated to learn how. I’m an ignoramus when it comes to astronomy or engineering or any of the technology required to launch these enterprises. I’ll tell you what, though. I’m an expert at the flights of fancy that lead people to think it might make sense to turn an airplane into a giant telescope.  So now I’m wondering what a guy like Daugherty Johnson, Eastport’s snow sculptor of wolves and sled dogs, architect of treeehouses, could do with a little smaller Flying Machine, maybe something like this yellow seaplane.

I’m going to ask him.  I’ll tell you what he says.