NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the sun

The Parker Solar Probe orbiting the sun

NASA’s Parker solar probe wearing a nearly 5-inch coat of carbon-composite solar shields is going to explore the sun’s atmosphere in a mission that begins in the summer of 2018.

The roughly 10-foot high probe is going to be put closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has ever reached before. The probe will have to withstand heat and temperature never experienced before. This is NASA’s first mission to the sun and its outer atmosphere which is called corona.

On Wednesday, the solar probe initially called the Solar Probe Plus was renamed as the Parker Solar Probe in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

The probe will eventually orbit within 3.7 million miles of the sun’s surface. The observations and data could provide an insight about the physics of stars, change what we know about the corona, increase understanding of solar wind and help improve forecasting of major space events.

Space weather may not sound like something that concerns us, but surveys by the National Academy of Sciences have estimated that a damage worth $2 trillion dollars could be caused due to a solar event without warning.

In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will have to take seven flybys of Venus that will give gravity assist to the probe, shrinking its orbit around the over the course of nearly seven years. The probe will eventually be more closer to the sun than mercury.

When closest to the sun, the probe four and a half inch thick carbon composite solar shield will have to withstand temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit but due to its design the interior of the spacecraft will be at a comfortable room temperature. The probe will reach speeds up to 450,000 miles per hour. This speed would enable someone to get from Philadelphia to Washington, which is quite amazing.

This mission is scheduled to end in June 2025 which will provide us with a lot of information about the sun and will benefit us and earth.

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