Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy: a NASA/DLR (Germany) aircraft with a 100"/2.5 meter infrared telescople mounted in a Boeing 747SP.
This kind of awesome gets the telescope above 99% of the water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere, which is what makes infrared astronomy impossible from ground-based observatories. It replaces KAO (Kuiper Airborne Observatory, a 36" telescope).
We had an extensive media presentation by the requisite talking heads and the scientists and educators, then we got to talk to the instrument program members (DLR's GREAT, Cornell University's FORCAST, and Lowell Observatory's HIPO). Several other instruments may or may not have been present, including FLITECAM, HAWC, and a few others, but either way we didn't get to talk to them. Learning how they aim for different frequencies and how they intend to observe them, both now and in the future as they evolve their equipment, was fascinating.
Being a photography geek who has not yet touched astrophotography, but is fascinated about space, it was also interesting to see how an airborne telescope works and the challenges it has to overcome.
We then go to go on board the aircraft and talk to more SOFIA scientists, which was cool, and in a very unexpected moment they uncovered the mirror (!!) and we got to see that too. Pretty sweet!!!
t'was a nice extension to the second JPL Tweetup from two days beforehand. Very glad I got selected to... thanks NASA JPL, NASA Ames, and NASA Dryden!