NASA officials removed the SOFIA Flying Infrared Observatory from the next year's budget, and the modified Boeing 747SP last went up into the sky with a 19-ton 2.5 telescope on September 28, 2022.
The first flight of the observatory took place in 2010 and in 12 years of operation made many discoveries, including the discovery of water on the Moon. Water vapour in the Earth ' s atmosphere is heavily absorbed by infrared wave lengths, and light from distant objects simply does not reach telescopes on the planet ' s surface. Therefore, they need to be raised higher. The project of the stratospheric Infrared Telescope SOFIA was not the first of its kind, prior to which infrared telescopes were raised in the sky on less than the large Boeing 747SP.
The use of SOFIA as a launcher made the SOFIA project very, very expensive. Each year, over $80 million was required to support it. These costs were comparable to the cost of supporting the Hubble Space Telescope at a relatively small scientific impact. SOFIA officials threatened to close it as early as 2014, but scientists stood by it. This later helped to detect reliable signs of water on the visible side of the Moon.
The SOFIA project was extended every three years; the last extension was approved in 2019; the 2023 budget does not include any money for the continuation of the stratospheric flying laboratory; instead, the amount for the decommissioning of the project's facilities is set at $20 million. After the cancellation of all works, the observatory will be sent to the museum.