Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA’s Spacecraft Will Be Launched Next Week to ‘Touch the Sun’

NASA’s Spacecraft Will Be Launched Next Week to ‘Touch the Sun’

In the coming week NASA is launching its Parker Solar Probe; a spacecraft that's specially designed "to touch the sun".

To hit the solar surface, a probe should accelerate to the same orbital velocity of the Earth around the Sun with 30 kilometers per second in the opposite direction, but the current rocket technology can only cover a third of that speed.

NASA is getting ready for one hot mission.

In a statement, NASA said the probe "will travel through the sun's atmosphere, closer to its surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions - and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star".

On its first pass by the sun, three months after launch, the Parker Solar Probe will already be closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has ever been - about 10 million miles out, or about 65 solar radii.

Scientists say that it will study the sun's atmosphere and solar wind.

"The answers could be crucial to scientists' understanding of how stars beyond our solar system work" says, adding that "closer to home, the probe's work should also help scientists understand and predict the hazards of living near a star" including why solar activity can interfere with communications and navigation systems. The gravity assist is scheduled for October 2 and will put the probe on track to reach its first point of close approach to the sun on November 5.

The spacecraft has undergone a brutal regimen of testing at the APL and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The FIELDS instrument suite, a series of antennas and magnetometers, will measure shape and scale of the corona's electric and magnetic fields.

"We see these big storms happening on the sun and then see them collide with Earth", said Geronimo Villanueva.

The National Administration of Aeronautics and Space (NASA) has devised an spacecraft built with a material capable of withstanding temperatures so high as to get close to the Sun and study it, according to the USA agency.

The mission is named after physicist Eugene Parker who published a scientific paper in 1958 theorising the existence of the solar wind. While the launch window was due to close on August 19, NASA has managed to extend it for a few more days, until August 23.

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