Scientists hope the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, will help answer "many fundamental questions about the creation and evolution of the universe, including how stars and planets are formed, how organic materials necessary for life form and evolve, and the nature of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy," according to NASA's Web site.
NASA plans to have the plane in regular service by 2010.
— Daniel DeBolt
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