NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory tipped its wings in farewell as it departed the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for its new home at Grand Forks, N.D., last month.
NASA will pay the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, $25 million over the next five years to maintain and operate the DC-8 science research aircraft. The plan is for the DC-8 to be the centerpiece of a new National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the university.
Built as an extended-range jetliner in 1966, the DC-8 was acquired by NASA from Alitalia Airlines in 1985 and converted to a flying science laboratory. The DC-8 has supported satellite validation, Earth science studies, and the development of remote sensing techniques for space-based observing systems. It has deployed worldwide to support research, including measuring ozone and other gases. The aircraft also has carried scientists and their instruments into the eyes of several hurricanes with the goal of improving predictions of the storms’ movements and increasing warning time.