NASA Solar Probe Mission to Touch the Sun Launches in August
Ron Perillo / 5 years ago
Flying Too Close to the Sun?
NASA is preparing to launch what is probably their most ambitious mission yet in August. They are sending a probe as close to the sun‘s “surface” as possible. This is NASA’s first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere called the ‘corona’. The probe will orbit within 5.9 million kilometers off the sun’s surface. That might sound far, but according to researchers, this is equivalent to the probe sitting on the 4-yard line of a football field and the sun being at the end zone.
Obviously, due to the extreme temperatures and distance involved, this is not going to be a manned mission. So NASA is sending a 10-foot-high probe called the ‘Solar Probe Plus’, now renamed Parker Solar Probe, in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. This is in fact the first time that NASA has named a probe after a living individual.
When is This Mission Launching?
“The spacecraft is buttoned up, looking beautiful and ready for flight,” Nicola Fox. She is a Parker Solar Probe project scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
The launch will be on August 6 between 4am and 6am EST, with the launch window open until August 19. That is as long as all things go as planned in Cape Canaveral. The mission is using a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket, one of the most powerful there is. The payload being propelled is a probe the size of a car.
The two week window was selected specifically since the probe relies on Venus to propel it into the sun’s orbit. After six weeks, the probe will reach Venus, which will allow for proper orientation as it sets off toward its path to the sun.
“The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto,” said Yanping Guo from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed the mission trajectory. “During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favorable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun.”