NASA’s Flying Science Laboratory says “goodbye”

NASA’s Flying Science Laboratory says “goodbye”
NASA’s Flying Science Laboratory says “goodbye”

The world’s largest aerial research laboratory will make its final flight to Idaho State University

NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory will make its final flight next Wednesday to Idaho State University in Pocatello, where aspiring aircraft technicians will train through the university’s aircraft maintenance technology program.

Michael Thomson, head of the scientific projects branch at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, said the DC-8 carried out missions around the world.

“The work we did on that plane will make a difference for future generations by improving weather forecasting, monitoring glacial ice thickness, air quality, and improving our ability to predict hurricane development from tropical storms,” he added.

The Airborne Research Laboratory is a highly modified four-engine Douglas DC-8 used by federal, state, academic and foreign researchers, as well as companies such as Boeing and United Airlines, which has been flying since 1987.

The aircraft is 157 feet long with a wingspan of 148 feet, large enough to accommodate up to 45 researchers and flight crew and carry 30,000 pounds of scientific cargo. It has a range of 5,400 nm and a flight time of 12 hours, flying within the atmosphere between 1,000 and 42,000 feet altitude.

The DC-8 is equipped with a suite of sensors and data systems, as well as Iridium and Inmarsat satellite communications, making it suitable for a variety of missions.

It is primarily used to test satellite sensors and space lasers, validate satellite data, provide tracking and telemetry for space launch vehicles re-entering the atmosphere, and conduct a variety of other studies.

The data collected by the aircraft has been used for studies in various disciplines, from biology to volcanology. He was a key contributor, for example, to NASA’s Operation IceBridge, the largest aerial survey of Earth’s polar ice.

“DC-8 has carried scientists on many missions to observe atmospheric composition, the most important applications of which are air quality,” said Hal Maring, scientist in NASA’s Earth Sciences Division.

Earlier this month, past and present members of the DC-8 team gathered at NASA’s Armstrong Building 703 at Edwards Air Force Base, which housed the aircraft for much of its three decades, to remember their contributions to science.

The DC-8 has traveled far and wide in its pursuit of scientific discoveries, flying high in the atmosphere and over all seven continents. Bill Brockett, who flew the plane for 28 years, said a 2009 expedition to Antarctica was his favorite.

 
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