After nearly being cancelled last year, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy was dedicated today by Erik Lindbergh. With its 2.5 meter reflecting telescope (bigger than Hubble) SOFIA's flights will explore new regions of the infrared spectrum. Looking into the infrared allows us to peer closer to the beginning of the Universe. Earlier this month a full-scale mockup of the James Webb Space Telescope was displayed on the National Mall. As Steinn has noted, an infrared "dark energy" mission is struggling because earlier projects like SOFIA and JWST may "cherry pick" key results first.
The 747SP was developed in the late 1970's as a longer-range version of the 747. It allowed true transpacific flights, such as New York - Tokyo. The stubby fuselage requires a taller vertical stabiliser because of the shorter lever arm. The long-range 747-400 later made the SP redundant.
The 747 has dominated the big jet market since its introduction in 1970. Improved models like the 747-8 have kept it ahead of rivals like the A-380. As you heard here first, Boeing's next project after the 787 will be a fuel-efficient replacement for the thousand 737's. A 737 replacement will face competition not particularly from struggling Airbus but from rising jet manufacturers like Embraer and Bombardier.
By 2015 the design will be 45 years old. At this time Boeing will face the expensive challenge of a new aircraft. Possibly the 747 successor will be a blended wing-body design. A flying wing like the B-2 is a much more efficient design for carrying payloads. After 2015 they will need to develop something even more advanced, which this blog will describe soon.
This same aircraft was originally christened Clipper Lindbergh by Anne Morrow Lindbergh on May 21, 1977. John F. Kennedy alluded to Charles Lindbergh's flight in his 1962 moon speech: "But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?...We choose to go to the moon!"
This is the 80th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's flight. Today, as 45 years ago, there is a Vision to go beyond Low Earth Orbit where no one has gone before. President Kennedy's vision survived his assasination and two presidents to reach Tranquility Base in 1969. Will humans reach the asteroids and Mars this time? Will the US stay ahead in Space? That will require dedication.