John Grunsfeld (left) and a DSI telescope technician examine the framework supporting the 100-inch primary mirror in the telescope cavity of NASA's SOFIA flying observatory. › View Larger Image
John Grunsfeld adds his autograph to those of Apollo astronaut Fred Haise, Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols and Bill Nye "the science guy" on a bulkhead behind the flight deck of NASA's SOFIA flying observatory. › View Larger Image John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate and a former space shuttle astronaut, was brought up to date on the status of a variety of airborne science missions flown on NASA aircraft during a recent tour of the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. Grunsfeld was also briefed on the upgrades to and upcoming astronomical science flights by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy during his visit.
SOFIA science mission operations director Erick Young of the Universities Space Research Association and SOFIA project scientist Pamela Marcum outlined the next series of astrophysics flights to be undertaken by the SOFIA observatory in 2013. SOFIA program manger Eddie Zavala and aircraft manager Brent Cobleigh then detailed the upgrades made to the observatory's avionics and telescope control systems over the past year.
Grunsfeld was also briefed on coming airborne Earth science campaigns by NASA's ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, its DC-8 flying laboratory, JPL's UAVSAR synthetic aperture radar on a modified C-20A (G-III) and the autonomously operated Global Hawks. He was also updated on plans for the Discover-AQ pollution study over central California that was flown from the Dryden facility by an instrumented P-3B Orion aircraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and a B200 King Air from NASA's Langley Research Center, both in Virginia, during the latter part of January and early February.
Grunsfeld (center) was briefed by NASA Dryden's Global Hawk project manager Chris Naftel (right) and deputy project manger Phil Hall (left) on the missions and capabilities of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system during his recent tour of the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility. › View Larger Image