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 records data.

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.

Back to Beginning