NASA has issued a worldwide invitation for people to join them on their revolutionary journey to touch the Sun. Onboard the Parker Solar Probe, due to launch in the summer of 2018, will be a microchip containing all the names of people who signed up online. This unique probe will delve into the Sun’s harsh atmosphere, withstanding tremendous amounts of heat and radiation, and your name could be part of that.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
The Sun is the most influential object in our Solar System, making it the number one target for space scientists’ research. Solar winds and Coronal Mass Ejections permeate through space and affect space environment. This field of research, also known as heliophysics, is important for understanding the true nature of our host star, and could also have further implications for future space exploration missions.
Being the size of a small car, the Parker Solar Probe will clash into the Sun’s atmosphere at about 6.5 million kilometres (4 million miles) from the star’s surface. The main aim for the mission is to trace how energy and heat moves through the solar corona – the scorching, gaseous outer layer of the Sun – and how it accelerates the solar winds and solar energetic particles. This mission will change our understanding of the Sun and how it affects our entire Solar System.
The spacecraft, and its high-precision instruments, will be protected by a heat shield consisting of an 11-centimetre-thick (4.5-inch) carbon-composite shield. This shield will be able to withstand temperatures up to nearly 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit), protecting the four instruments designed to measure the Sun’s magnetic field, plasma, energetic and image the solar wind and room temperature.
The speed of the spacecraft will be incredibly swift, with its closing approach speed being roughly 430,000 miles-per-hour (690,000 kilometres-per-hour). This speed could take you from Washington, D.C., United States to Tokyo, Japan in under a minute.
“Parker Solar Probe is, quite literally, the fastest, hottest — and, to me, coolest — mission under the Sun,” says project scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we’ve not been able to understand.”
The Parker Solar Probe, one of many missions that are apart of NASA’s Living with a Star Program (LWS), is the first instance where NASA has named a spacecraft after a living individual. In 2017, NASA decide to change the spacecraft’s name from the ‘Solar Probe Plus’, to the Parker Solar Probe in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. In the 1950s, Parker proposed numerous theories about the behaviour of our Sun, including the emission of energy from the powerful body through solar winds among other work.
Be sure not to miss out though, as the deadline for submissions is 27 April 2018. You can be a part of this amazing voyage by clicking here.
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