NASA Honors 80th Anniversary Of Lindbergh Flight

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NASA dedicated a new astronomy aircraft to aviator Charles Lindbergh on the 80th anniversary of his historic trans-Atlantic flight. Erik Lindbergh, the pilot's grandson, joined NASA for the event on Monday, in Waco, Texas. NASA's new Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a highly modified 747 that carries a 45,000-pound infrared telescope system. At the ceremony, NASA officials said SOFIA will fly above 40,000 feet to capture infrared images unavailable to earthbound telescopes. The aircraft is wrapping up a series of checkout flights before heading to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for two more years of tests and systems integration. "This project is a fantastic blend of a 20th century legacy aircraft and a 21st century platform for exploration," Erik Lindbergh said. The NASA 747 will be able to carry out scientific missions with greater flexibility and ease of upgrade than a satellite-borne observatory. The telescope's first images are expected in 2009.