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NASA’s Antarctica and Space missions explored in Christchurch

A key member of one of NASA’s premier space programs will share his views on Space, the Antarctic and the technological revolution at an event in Christchurch this month.

Zaheer Ali is the Science and Mission Operations Laboratory Supervisor for SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 that carries a 38,000 pound, 100-inch diameter infrared telescope in her tail section.

His job includes testing, preparing and maintaining the high-tech arsenal of instruments that allow SOFIA to navigate the night skies at around 1,000 kilometers per hour, capturing images of planets, asteroids and outer space.

While most of his work is conducted on Earth, Ali has witnessed his share of outer space, met Neil Armstrong and got up close and personal with Mars while onboard SOFIA.

“I’m personally very interested in Mars exploration and the exploration of other worlds, so being onboard with the GREAT instrument as they measured Martian Atomic Oxygen was amazing,” Ali says.

“When I’ve flown, I’ve also had the privilege to view both the Aurora Borealis and Australis,” he says.

As the world’s largest flying observatory, SOFIA carries out regular space explorations from Christchurch and will be returning to its temporary home at Christchurch airport later this year.


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