The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced its first mission to the sun to fly directly towards the Sun’s atmosphere or Corona from the University of Chicago on Wednesday. NASA made the announcement while honoring astrophysicist Eugene Parker who holds the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. They also renamed the Solar Probe Plus to Parker Probe Plus to honor the astrophysicist’s work in type of research called heliophysics.
“This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living individual,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in Washington. “It’s a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day.”
The Solar Probe team will manoeuver the spacecraft right into the Corona of the sun at 430,000 miles an hour which is 118 miles a second. It would be the first time a man made structure would face brutal heat and would swoop seven times closer to navigate through the Sun’s atmosphere to take measurements.
NASA said this mission had been culminating for 60 years and the reason it took so long was because the materials that were needed to withstand the heat didn’t exist. The Parker Probe Plus would also be fitted with new solar panels that would recharge while facing 7 times the heat.
Solar Probe team also said the spacecraft is currently being built and tested and being made to withstand temperatures of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit which is about 1371 degrees Celsius. NASA also confirmed that most of the system had already been integrated and all the required machines for measurements will be attached to the space craft towards the end of the year.
Parker Solar Probe is on track for launch during a 20-day window that opens July 31, 2018. The mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC Johns Hopkins APL manages the mission for NASA and is designing and building and will operate the spacecraft.