NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will explore the Sun’s atmosphere on a mission that begins in the summer of 2018.
It is not a trip any human can make, so NASA is sending a probe about 3 meters long on a historic mission that will put it closer to the Sun than any spacecraft.
The probe will have to withstand the heat and radiation never before experienced by a similar vehicle and the specially designed mission will also address questions that could not be answered before. Understanding the Sun in greater detail can also shed light on the Earth and its place in the solar system, researchers said.
The probe will eventually orbit 5.9 million kilometers from the surface of the Sun. Observations and data could provide insight into the physics of stars, , increase understanding of the solar wind and help to improve the ability to predict major space weather events. Those events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as Earth, including radiation exposure on flights.
The objectives of the mission are to track the flow of energy that heats up and accelerates the solar corona and the solar wind by determining the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields in solar wind sources and exploring mechanisms that accelerate and transport energy particles.
The solar wind is the flow of charged gases from the sun that sweeps through the solar system. Those winds stream across the Earth at a million miles an hour.