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December 11, 2020

AMA Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the International Space Station

On October 26, 2020, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) telescope detected water molecules on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water molecules are present in more places than was previously thought, not just cold, shadowed areas. 


In a media briefing held October 25 at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz said, “We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon. Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

The discovery of water would not have been possible without SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. Like other astronomical telescopes, SOFIA is made of a suite of instruments, in particular, cameras, spectrometers and polarimeters that operate in different infrared wavelengths to study different phenomena. Unlike Hubble and the many other space observatories, SOFIA returns to Earth after each mission, and as a result, its instrument suite and software can be exchanged, serviced, and upgraded to seek out new discoveries and tackle new challenges.  


Image Credit: NASA

This is where the Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA) team supporting the Engineering and Technical Support Service (ETSS) contract comes into focus. As with any NASA mission, it takes a team to ensure success and AMA played a pivotal role behind the scenes in this amazing discovery. 


AMA’s contribution to SOFIA’s discovery of water is attributable to the work of ETSS inspectors, quality assurance employees, and system safety personnel who operate in California’s Mojave Desert. The SOFIA aircraft is maintained at and operates from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, where AMA’s ETSS team supports Safety and Mission Assurance.


The ETSS team ensures parts and software received and/or fabricated for installation on SOFIA are properly inspected and accepted in time for each science mission. ETSS inspectors are part of Armstrong’s combined government and contractor workforce involved with aircraft and flight systems fabrication, modification, and maintenance on Armstrong’s inventory of military, commercial, and prototype aircraft. As aircraft inspectors, ETSS team members monitor and verify aircraft and flight system work is performed in conformance with manufacturing and engineering technical directives.


The ETSS team works every day to ensure the safety and success of each flight, preparing the entire NASA team for future new discoveries and overcoming mission challenges. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program in conjunction with the German Aerospace Center. 


Read NASA’s press release here: and published results of the discovery here:

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