NASA Launching Spacecraft To ‘Touch The Sun,’ Will Be Humanity’s First Mission To A Star
The sun gives us light, energy, food, and existence, yet we really don’t know too much about the center of our solar system. A new spacecraft hopes to get closer to the sun than any other probe so that we may unlock secrets about this incredible life-giving star.
For the last 60 years, NASA has been wanting to send a probe to the sun, but it is a daunting mission since the sun’s surface is 10,000 degrees and the sun’s atmosphere is 3,000,000 degrees (Here is an explanation for that logic-defying temperature difference)! The mission to go as close to the sun as possible is happening in 2018 and scientists are excited to learn more about our star.
“Even though the sun is so close to us, there’s actually a lot about it we don’t understand,” says heat shield lead engineer Betsy Congdon from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “Unless we can explain what is going on up close to the sun, we will not be able to accurately predict space weather effects that can cause havoc at Earth,” NASA said.
The original name of the probe was the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, but they renamed it to the Parker Solar Probe in honor of Eugene Parker, an esteemed astrophysicist who predicted the existence of solar winds almost 60 years ago. Parker, who is nearly 90-years-old, told the audience that the spacecraft is “ready to do battle with the solar elements.”
“This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate 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. I’m very excited to be personally involved honoring a great man and his unprecedented legacy.”