NASA’s Mission to fly into sun’s atmosphere in 2018

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NASA says the plan for the Parker Solar Probe is to orbit within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface. This is NASA’s first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere, called the corona. The mission is scheduled to end in June 2025.

The mission’s objectives include tracing the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the sun’s corona and solar wind. Determining the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind. Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

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After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 2018. The Parker Solar Probe will become the first to fly directly into the sun’s atmosphere. A 20-day launch window for the spacecraft’s liftoff atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket opens July 31, 2018. NASA is sending a roughly 10-foot-high probe on the historic mission. That will put it closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever reached before. Wearing a nearly 5-inch coat of carbon-composite solar shields. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will explore the sun’s atmosphere in a mission that begins in the summer of 2018. The probe will eventually orbit within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface.

The probe will reach a speed of 450,000 mph around the sun. On Earth, this speed would enable someone to get from Philadelphia to Washington in one second, the agency said. The mission will also pass through the origin of the solar particles with the highest energy. Solar wind is the flow of charged gases from the sun that is present in most of the solar system. That wind screams past Earth at a million miles per hour, and disturbances of the solar wind cause disruptive space weather that impacts our planet. Space weather may not sound like something that concerns Earth, but surveys by the National Academy of Sciences have estimated that a solar event without warning could cause $2 trillion in damage in the United States and leave parts of the country without power for a year.

In order to reach an orbit around the sun. The Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give the probe a gravity assist. Shrinking its orbit around the sun over the course of nearly seven years. The probe will eventually be closer to the sun than Mercury. It will be close enough to watch solar wind whip up from subsonic to supersonic. When closest to the sun, the probe’s 4½-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shields will have to withstand temperatures close to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to its design, the inside of the spacecraft and its instruments will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

Decomposing leaves a source of greenhouse gases

The observations and data could provide insight about the physics of stars, change what we know about the mysterious corona, increase understanding of solar wind and help improve forecasting of major space weather events. Those events can impact satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth including the power grid and radiation exposure on airline flights, NASA said.

Mission Re-named after astrophysicist

Initially called Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed after the astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 89, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. He published the first paper to describe solar wind the high-speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun in 1958.