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Interplanetary Helicopters & SOFIA's New Eyes

NASA's SOFIA observatory at Daytona International Airport. Photo: Brendan Byrne
NASA's SOFIA observatory at Daytona International Airport. Photo: Brendan Byrne

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter had a Wright Brothers moment on Mars after performing the first powered flight on another planet. It’s the first in many planned helicopter missions to other worlds. So what are engineers learning from the test? Mike Kinzel, a UCF assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida, is working on NASA’s Dragonfly mission -- a robotic helicopter heading to Saturn’s moon Titan -- and joins the show to talk about lessons learned from Ingenuity.

Then, a flying telescope is getting a new pair of eyes. The SOFIA observatory is a telescope that flies into the stratosphere on a modified Boeing 747SP. It’s getting new detectors that allow it to study magnetic fields in distant galaxies four times faster than its current rate. So what does this mean for astronomy and the future of the observatory? Dr. Margaret Meixner,  director of Sofia Science Mission Operations at the Universities Space Research Association joins the program for the latest.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."