Published: Thu, November 01, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA Solar Probe Becomes Closest Spacecraft to the Sun

NASA Solar Probe Becomes Closest Spacecraft to the Sun

Solar probe Parker, which launched July 31, has already set a record - he became the closest to the Sun man-made object in the entire history of space flight. As the Parker Solar Probe mission progresses, the spacecraft will repeatedly break its own records, with a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the Sun's surface expected in 2024.

Over the next seven years, the probe will make 24 close approaches and finally get the closest it will ever be - at 3.8 million miles.

These records will fall again and again over the course of the Parker Solar Probe's $1.5 billion mission, which began August 12 with a liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Seven hours later the probe had reached a speed of 69.72 km/s (kilometres per second, which translates to around 250,992 km/h or 155,959 mph) relative to the Sun. The spacecraft, which was launched in August with an ambitious goal to "touch the Sun" - not literally, though, - is created to re-think our understanding of the Sun's corona and solar winds.

The Parker Solar Probe mission will analyze the Sun's corona and charged particles that bombard the Earth. "It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31". The Parker Solar Probe passed the record at about 10.34 pm Indian time on Monday, NASA said. It broke the record set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976.

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The probe is comparable in size to a small auto and NASA expects it to reach speeds of 430,000 miles per hour. It will continue to fly closer to the surface of the Sun, until the spacecraft reaches the point closest to the Sun on November 5.

Nicky Fox, Parker Solar Probe's project scientist, added: "The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world".

The spacecraft sports a special carbon-composite shield to protect itself and its instruments from intense heat and radiation during its close flybys.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA aircraft to be named after a living astrophysicist; 91-year-old Eugene Parker, who proposed the notion of solar wind.

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