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Santa Monica

Tuesday, February 20th 2018

I was supposed to fly on SOFIA. It's a modified 747 with a big hole cut in the side, so that it can carry an infrared telescope. Flying in the stratosphere gives you excellent observing conditions.

I'd had a vague possibility to fly on it last year, but it clashed with some important things. So this year when the chance came up again, I jumped at it. But then the flight my observations were scheduled for needed to carry some technicians so there was no space for me. I thought it was all off.

But then, unexpectedly, they said I could fly on an earlier flight if I wanted. I wouldn't then see my own observations being carried out, but still, it seemed like it would be a good experience. Looked like things were on again.

Then, there was a tense wait while I filled out all the necessary forms. This was supposed to be done many weeks in advance but the changing plans meant that was not possible. So there was every chance I wouldn't be able to fly just because the paperwork couldn't be completed in time.

But it was completed. I was cleared for access to the airfield where SOFIA takes off from, cleared to visit NASA facilities, and very excited. I booked flights to California.

And then I got an email saying that SOFIA's maintenance was overrunning and the flight was cancelled. It was a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory that were themselves in the jaws of defeat.

With the flight already booked, I decided to snatch a victory from the jaws of that defeat and go to California anyway. I stayed in Santa Monica, enjoying sunshine in February while London shivered in an unseasonably cold winter.

California 2018 | SpaceX Launch »