Broadcast 2650 Dr. Markus Voelter

21 Feb 2016 Dr. Markus Voelter
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Guest:  Dr. Markus Voelter; Topics: Dr. Voelter' s SOFIA flight, Omega Tau Podcasts on science, aviation, space, & more, space in Germany.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See   Do note that there was a feedback audio issue for the first half of this program.  I apologize for the audio issue but it was resolved for the second half of our interview.

We welcomed Dr. Markus Voelter to the program to discuss his flight experience aboard the NASA-DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), along with his Omega Tau Podcasts. During the first segment of our 1 hour 45 minute discussion, Markus described the SOFIA program, the DLR-NASA relationship and responsibilities for SOFIA, plus he went in to significant detail about his ten hour flight experience aboard the SOFIA observation flight from Palmdale, CA.  In fact, our first segment is all about flying onboard the special Boeing 747SP SOFIA aircraft.  Among the topics discussed and covered as a result what Markus told us and listener questions were the SOFIA public outreach program, the advantages of using the 747SP, how the plane gets to 43,000 feet at the top of the stratosphere, the special infrared telescope with its design, gimbals, and size, how the telescope is operated both manually and remotely, SOFIA routes and air traffic control issues, infrared astronomy, why infrared on the SOFIA 747SP rather than on a satellite or even a balloon, the special FIFI-LS imaging spectrometer, SOFIA science, operational crew, science crew, visitors/teachers onboard the SOFIA flights, food on the flight, flight logistics, and lots more.  Markus did ten hours of podcasting on this flight which you can listen to at  There is also a special SOFIA slide show with photos regarding SOFIA and our guest's experience at

There were specific listener questions about the telescope mirror exposed to the atmosphere since the side of the plane opens up during the viewing periods.  Marshall wanted to know if SOFIA scientists had a proprietary period of use with their observation data, and then Luis wanted to know about SOFIA financial problems given the project has faced cancellation several times.  This allowed Markus to elaborate on the SOFIA project's high operating costs, then Markus and I engaged in a mini discussion about the "game" politicians play in approving and funding projects knowing the expenses may be downplayed only to face cancelling the projects later on when reality sets in and some may have a different use in mind for the money they are spending on the older project.  Julian wanted to know if there were actual cost comparisons for running and operating SOFIA versus a similar telescope on a satellite.  In addition, since Markus said he did not offer transcripts for his podcasts, a subject the two of us discussed in detail for a few minutes as we had similar thoughts on the matter, Julian suggested his podcasts get German cultural funding support for transcripts.  Don't miss what Markus said about this idea.

During the first segment, we also covered lots of telescope and 747SP logistical topics.  For example, Markus was asked if the jet turns off its wing lights while observing to cut down on the chances of light interference with the telescope.  Markus also talked about the crew, the safety officers on board, and their safety instructions if they had to abandon the aircraft after an emergency landing, especially if they happened to be on the plane's upper deck.  SOFIA flight rates were discussed as was the base for the project and plane in Palmdale.  Markus talked about the observing paths flown by the plane for the various SOFIA missions. 

In the second segment, we primarily focused on the Omega Tau Podcasts by Markus and his associate, Nora Ludewig.  Podcasts are in both German and English depending on the guest being interviewed.  Markus said he likes to focus on science, technology, aviation, and space.  To date there are 196 episodes.  He mentioned a few of the podcasts including one about mega projects and why they fail.  You can hear that program at  Markus then said his top three episodes dealt with the Large Binocular Telescope, his David Woods podcast regarding his book "How Apollo Flew To The Moon," and select aviation topics.

In addition to asking our guest about his podcast programs, he fielded questions about space in Germany.  Listeners wanted to know if space was a big interest topic among Germans.  Another question dealt with space interests across Europe with listener Francis wanting to know which of the European countries seemed most interested in space.  The winners were Germany, the Netherlands, and France, but don't miss all of what he had to say in response to this question.  Another listener question focused on German observatories. 

Please post your comments/questions in the comments section for this archived program on The Space Show website.  You can reach Dr. Voelter through me or his website, and  




Markus Volter from Germany on SOFIA & Technology