NASA’S Parker Solar Probe Sets Out to Get Closer to the Sun than Ever Before

Aug 24, 2018

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced the successful launch of its Parker Solar Probe. The Spacecraft, named for retired University of Chicago Astrophysicist Eugene N. Parker who was the first person to predict the solar wind, will complete 24 orbits of the sun before concluding its mission in 2025. The aim of the mission is to increase understanding of the sun. As part of its mission, the spacecraft will collect data such as measurements of the sun’s electrical and magnetic fields, analyzing the components the solar wind and photographing the sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere that more than 300 times hotter than its surface.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

In addition to its 24 orbits around the sun, the probe will also pass around Venus six times. It will use Venus’ orbit and gravitational pull to get closer to the sun. The probe will use cutting edge thermal engineering advances to get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft to date. “Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Click here to follow the progress of the Parker Solar Probe mission: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/parker-solar-probe

To view the original Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13117/vision-and-voyages-for-planetary-science-in-the-decade-2013-2022

To view the midterm report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25186/visions-into-voyages-for-planetary-sciences-in-the-decade-2013-2022