The Gerard P. Kuiper Airborne Observatory is a 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope carried aboard a modified Lockheed C-141 jet transport. At an altitude of 12 kilometers (39,000 feet), the airplane flew above 99% of the Earth's atmospheric water vapor providing clarity. Observations could be made in infrared wavelengths unhindered by atmospheric absorption. The Kuiper Airborne Observatory ended its service in 1995 and its successor, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), became operational in 2010.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is a 2.5-meter (100-inch) telescope carried aboard a modified Boeing 747 SP airplane. The airplane can fly at an altitude of 12 kilometers (7 miles) or more, above 99 percent of Earth's atmospheric water vapor. This allows SOFIA to make observations in infrared wavelengths that are absorbed by the atmosphere at lower altitudes. SOFIA can carry scientists, crew, educators, and students in the pressurized cabin where the telescope is controlled.
The Hubble Space Telescope is the largest astronomical telescope ever sent into space. It was launched April, 1990 and is expected to operate for 15 years.
The Hubble Space Telescope is the first in a series of orbital telescopes to study the evolution of the universe. The telescope's wide-field planetary camera has continually provided new information on the planets including seasonal surface variations on Mars, clouds and storms on Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, and clearer views of distant Pluto and Charon than ever before. Hubble also enabled unique views of the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter in 1994 and provided evidence for other planetary systems in the universe.