NASA will fly you to the sun--or at least your name

Pauline Gross
March 9, 2018

The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, which is about the size of a small auto, is primarily tasked to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona.

We all know what happens when you ask the public to name things: you get ships called Boaty McBoatFace or whales called Mr Splashy Pants.

NASA offered this participation aboard its Orion spacecraft for 1.38 million people in 2014, and for again to more than 2.4 million participating people with its Insight lander set to launch later this year.

As for the mission itself, the car-sized spacecraft will attempt to travel into the Sun's atmosphere, and face "heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history". The last date of the submissions is 27 April 2018.

To get on the list, just sign up on the Parker Solar Probe submissions page, by entering your name and email. Most recently, the space agency has accepted names to be carried on microchips on its InSight lander, which is headed for Mars later this year.

"This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we've not been able to understand".

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Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. In this photo, Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, visits the spacecraft that bears his name on October 3, 2017. Engineers in the clean room at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the probe was designed and built, point out the instruments that will collect data as the mission travels directly through the Sun's atmosphere.

Parker Solar Probe is a piece of NASA's Living with a Star Program, or LWS, to investigate parts of the Sun-Earth framework that specifically influence life and society. It'll need to handle temperatures up to 2,500 degrees and will travel more than 430,000 miles per hour at one point.

When the sun's charged particles reach Earth, they interact with the planet's magnetic fields and the gases in our atmosphere, creating the colorful light displays known as auroras.

The Sun is roughly 93 million miles away from Earth, and to get the probe to its desired destination, NASA has selected the second most powerful and among the most reliable rockets now in the human arsenal: the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy. "This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades".

This summer, it plans to send a spacecraft to the scorching ball of fire, and onboard could be your name.

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