Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

NASA mission to get closer to sun than ever before

Eugene Parker at the University of Chicago               CBS News Eugene Parker at the University of Chicago CBS News
Sandra Phillips | 09 August, 2018, 01:46

This is one of the most daring missions that the space agency has ever envisioned and its success requires a speedy launch, notes Space.com.

Designed at Johns Hopkins University, the Solar Parker Probe will depart on the 11th from Cape Canaveral (the main center of US space activities) on a mission that will last seven years and analyze the solar wind. By the last orbits of its nominal mission, in 2024 and 2025, the spacecraft will be less than 10 solar radii from the center of the sun, or 9 solar radii above the surface. Over the next seven years, the probe will be performing 24 flybys of the sun - three of which will take it within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million kilometers) from the sun's surface. The probe will be the first spacecraft to fly into the low solar corona-the aura of plasma that surrounds our closest star.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, the spacecraft will be protected from the sun's scorching rays by a state-of-the-art heat shield made out of carbon composite foam encased in carbon plates. The heat will not melt the probe, because the engineers have created a powerful shield that will keep everything in the probe at 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). "We're going to be very, very close".

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world and even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are handsome - but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere". The probe will be the first NASA project named for a living scientist.

Additionally, it will carry a memory card containing over 1.1 million names, including William Shatner's, of people who asked for them to be sent into the sun.

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"So we have the broader context with the camera, and at the same time we have the instrument suite's localized measurements", Geronimo Villanueva said.

Thomas Zurbuchen, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said: "By studying our star, we can learn not only more about the Sun".

McComas plans to be at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the Parker Space Probe.

"It's going to be a night launch of a Delta-IV Heavy", he said. "It's probably the best launch you could see". It was unbelievable. The ground shakes.

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