Preparing for a journey to the sun
It’s not a journey that any human can make, so NASA is sending a fully autonomous probe closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever reached.
The probe will have to withstand heat and radiation never previously experienced by any spacecraft, but the mission will also address questions that couldn’t be answered before. Understanding the sun in greater detail can also shed light on Earth and its place in the solar system, researchers said.
“We’ve been studying the Sun for decades, and now we’re finally going to go where the action is,” said Alex Young, solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.
In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit over the course of nearly seven years.
When closest to the sun, the 4½-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shields will have to withstand temperatures close to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the inside of the spacecraft and its instruments will remain at a comfortable room temperature.
Watch this Video Explanation on Why the Probe Won’t Melt!