KAO Goes to
The KAO was deployed to Melbourne, Australia, from July 12 through August 6, 1994. Ten
research flights were flown. The first five flights observed the effects of the collision
of individual fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with the planet Jupiter. The next two
flights continued observing Jupiter after all the comet fragment impacts occurred. The
last three flights were for southern-hemisphere observations. This was an extremely
ambitious flight schedule (seven 9.5-hour flights in nine days). The crew and scientists
had to work together to get the plane and instruments ready.
The KAO has a 35 inch telescope mounted in a cavity that opens to the outside of the
plane. It makes astronomical observations in the far infrared-radiation that is absorbed
by water vapor in the Earth's lower atmosphere. The KAO can travel to into the stratosphere where it can get above 99% of this
water vapor. The telescope rests on a cushion of air that isolates it from the roll,
pitch, and yaw of the plane. Gyros keep the telescope drift rate low. An on board computer
The KAO draws a huge crowd where ever it goes. An open
house is held to let airport personnel and their families tour the airplane. To take a virtual tour of the
KAO visit the NASA site.