NASA has explored almost all planets in our Solar System. The one object that remains unexplored by spacecrafts is our mighty Sun. NASA is now planning on sending a spacecraft to the only star in our solar system. This extraordinary and historic mission will be the last region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft, the Sun’s outer atmosphere or corona as it extends out into space.
NASA’s Solar Probe Plus mission to Sun
NASA is all set to launch Solar Probe Plus, the first ever mission of its kind, in Summer 2018. The spacecraft will go into orbit within 4 million miles of the surface of the Sun, the closest ever any man-made object has ever tried to reach. Considering that the probe must withstand extremely high temperatures and radiation, NASA is working on technology that will get the probe to survive solar intensity 475 times what the spacecraft will experience while orbiting Earth.
“SPP will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. The spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles. At its closest passes the spacecraft must survive solar intensity of about 475 times what spacecraft experience while orbiting Earth” NASA said.
NASA plans to use a 4.5-inch thick carbon-composite shield to withstand the temperatures that can likely reach 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA also plans to install Thermal radiators. The tubes will radiate heat and protect the instruments inside the spacecraft.
Several on-board instruments, including Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR), Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP), and electric and magnetic field suite called FIELDS and the EPI-Lo particle detector, will help NASA get the crucial data needed for scientific analysis.
We now know more about Sun’s corona and the solar wind than ever before. But two fundamental questions, raised in the 1940s by the discovery of the corona’s million-degree temperature and in the early 1960s by the proof of the supersonic solar wind’s existence, remain unanswered: Why is the solar corona so much hotter than the photosphere? And how is the solar wind accelerated? The answers to these questions will be provided by Solar Probe Plus.
In the latest news, NASA has renamed the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft – humanity’s first mission to a star, which will launch in 2018 – as the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago.
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