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NASA Launches Probe that will “Touch the Sun”

Space travel is something that humans have desired from the beginning of time. Humans have also achieved that, and they have been successful in reaching the Moon and Mars. But looks like the desire does not stop there.

NASA is going to launch the Parker Solar Probe as an effort to get closer to the Sun than ever before. The Probe would be set to launch in the small hours between Friday and Saturday at 3:53 AM. The probe would be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The probe would be assisted only by a handful of gravity assists and preliminary orbits. The probe would aim to enter a stable orbit around the Sun and would sample the radiation emitted from the Sun from less than 4 million miles away.

Making History

This mission would be creating history for NASA. This is the first mission that would be named after a living researcher, Eugene Parker. Eugene Parker in the ’50s made numerous proposals and theories on how stars like our sun emit energy.

His studies and findings led us to the solar wind, and his research was highly influential in the studies of the sun and other stars. Though they were all just theories, the time has now come for those theories to be put on paper and be tested.

But the question remains, how can this probe go as close to the sun as technology allows? 4 million miles also seems like a huge deal! Well, this is due to the PSP’s first major innovation, and that is the satellite’s heat shield or the thermal protection system.

Functioning

 

The heat from the Sun is the dry heat, and so there is no water vapor or gasses in space that needs to be heated up. What would you do on a hot dry sunny day? Run for cover, of course. And that is exactly what this probe is also doing. The probe is carrying a sort of carbon sandwich which is composite on the outside.

The cover might be less than a foot thick, but it succeeds in reducing the temperature of the probe’s instruments to 85 Fahrenheit from 2,500 Fahrenheit. The probe would constantly rotate itself when orbiting the sun to shield itself from the intense heat.

When coming to the instruments of the probe, there are three major components to the phone. The first is the WISPR which is essentially a pair of wide-field telescopes that will monitor and image the structure and direction of the corona and solar wind. Though this has been noticed from earth, a much clearer image can be generated when up close.

The SWEAP or the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation monitors the flows of electrons as they are affected by solar wind and other factors. FIELDS faces the Sun’s wrath as they are antennas that stick out from the sides. A set of fluxgate magnetometers are also up there measuring the magnetic field at a very high rate.

The probe is powered by solar panels, and they are designed in such a way that they get only a fraction of the sun or the radiation. This will be the fastest spacecraft ever launched and is expected to run out of fuel that corrects the craft’s orbit after seven years. After that, it is expected that the probe would be devoured by the sun itself.

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