Published: Wed, October 31, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe breaks record, becomes closest spacecraft to the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe breaks record, becomes closest spacecraft to the Sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has just made history by making the closest ever approach to the Sun by a human-made object.

It also emerged on Monday that the mission set the speed record for spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun, surpassing 153,454 miles per hour (shy of 247,000 km/h) and breaking the record set by Helios 2 back in 1976.

Expect a lot more broken records as the Parker Solar Probe mission continues, prepared to make a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the Sun's surface in 2024. The Parker Solar Probe is expected to best that today as well, reaching higher speeds at about 10:54 p.m. EDT (0254 GMT on October 30), NASA officials said.

On 29 October 2018, at 1:04 pm EDT (17:04 UTC), it crossed the previous, decades-old record of 42.73 million kilometres (26.55 million miles) from the Sun's surface.

Parker Solar Probe, shown in this animation, became the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun on October 29, 2018, when it passed within 26.55 million miles of the Sun's surface. The previous record was set in April 1976 by the Helios 2 spacecraft.

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The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft's precise speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN. Thanks to this spacecraft, humanity will receive unprecedented observations of its star, opening the door to new answers and understanding of the Sun.

The probe is still moving closer to the Sun and should reach its first relatively close encounter with the star on November 5.

"These observations will add key knowledge to NASA's efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds". It is the first NASA mission to be named after a living individual.

Over the next 11 days the Parker Solar Probe will endure temperatures of 1,377 C (2,500 F) to gather a vast trove of data on the behaviour of our parent star, measuring heat currents on the surface and investigating the origins of the stream of charged particles known as the solar wind.

The Sun-bound mission is expected to last around seven years, during which the probe will orbit the planet Venus to get closer to the Sun.

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