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April 7, 2009
SOFIA Science Mission Operations Director Selected
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – Erick Young, a widely recognized authority on infrared astronomy, has been appointed science mission operations director for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. The airborne observatory is currently under development at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

Young's appointment marks a major milestone for the airborne observatory, a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 2.5-meter/98-inch diameter infrared telescope. SOFIA is slated to begin its "first light" observations in early winter 2009-2010 as part of the airborne telescope's 20-year celestial observation program.

Young, who specializes in designing science instruments, has participated in virtually all of NASA's space infrared astronomy missions to date. Most recently, Young was responsible for developing the Spitzer Space Telescope's Multiband Imaging Photometer 3 detector array that provides both imaging and spectroscopic data at far-infrared wavelengths.

As SOFIA science mission operations director, Young will direct, supervise, and provide technical and management guidance for the combined Universities Space Research Association and Deutsches SOFIA Institute staff. He also will manage the airborne observatory's equipment, instruments, support facilities, and infrastructure to maximize its science productivity. Young will oversee planning and execution of the program's early science milestones in support of the SOFIA Science Center for initial scientific observations, as well as the continued development of the observatory. SOFIA is expected to achieve its full science operating capability by 2014.

Young is a member of NASA's science oversight committee for the Wide Field Camera 3, scheduled for installation on the Hubble Space Telescope during space shuttle Atlantis' 11-day flight targeted for launch May 12 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The camera will be Hubble's most technologically advanced instrument. In addition, Young is directing construction of the infrared detector arrays for the James Webb Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera.

Young is the recipient of the George Van Biesbroeck Prize, awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society for long-term achievement in astronomy, as well as five NASA Group Achievement Awards.

SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and the German Space Agency, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt, Bonn, Germany. The SOFIA program is managed by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.; the aircraft is based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, Palmdale, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Md., and the Deutsches SOFIA Institute, Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information about SOFIA, visit:


For information about SOFIA's science mission, visit:



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Dryden Flight Research Center
P.O. Box 273
Edwards, California 93523
Phone 661-276-3449
FAX 661-276-3566

Michael Mewhinney / Nicholas A. Veronico
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-3937 / 650-604-4589
michael.s.mewhinney@nasa.gov, nveronico@sofia.usra.edu

Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

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