Earlier this year, NASA quietly put their derelict Lockheed C-141 up for sale on a GSA Auction website. The aircraft wasn’t just your average Starlifter. It was a specially modified C-141 with a 36-inch optical telescope mounted on a stabilized platform to serve as a high-altitude observatory. The aircraft was named the Gerard P. Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO).
According to the now-removed (due to the government shutdown) auction listing, GSA said, “Aircraft was used as part of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory; the world~s longest-term dedicated astronomical observatory to make routine observations of the infrared sky from a vantage point in the stratosphere. During its operational lifetime, spanning over 20 years, it made many important discoveries, including more detailed knowledge about the atmospheres of planets, the existence of rings around planets other than Saturn, about accretion disks, or proto-planetary systems around other stars, and new insights into star formation. Though it was not the first airborne observatory for astronomy, it was the first to be operated routinely as a national facility. Its predecessors, Galileo I and II, have been scrapped, so it is the only living legacy of the old airborne program.”
The aircraft was first put up for auction back on August 10th, 2018. By the end of the auction period two weeks later, the high bid was only $8000. The minimum bid was not met. The aircraft is not flyable but surprisingly most of the cockpit looks to still be intact from the photos. The winning bidder would have had to submit a plan to remove the aircraft within 60 days and would have had to gain approval by the DoD as well.
This particular C-141A first entered service in 1971. According to the now removed auction website (taken offline to the government shutdown), the jet was decommissioned back in 1995. It has sat in storage at Moffett Field in California ever since.