NASA Announces Mission to “Touch the Sun”

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NASA has announced a mission planned for next summer that will send a spacecraft to orbit the sun closer than any spacecraft has before. The Parker Solar Probe will move more than 430,000 miles per hour and be seven times closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft. The probe will withstand heat and radiation never before experienced by any spacecraft. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago on May 31, 2017.

NASA’s first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere could provide insight on the physics of stars, change what we know about the corona, increase understanding of solar wind, and help forecast major space weather events.

The Parker Solar Probe was named in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars, including the sun, give off energy. Parker also wrote an article about the phenomenon now known as solar wind in 1958. This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living individual.

The Parker Solar Probe is on track for launch sometime between July 31, 2018 and August 19, 2018.