A NASA Spacecraft Just Broke the Record for Closest Approach to Sun

Cesar Mills
November 1, 2018

"It's only been 78 days since the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, and we approached our star closer than any other spacecraft in history". And the sun's powerful gravity will eventually accelerate the probe to a top speed of around 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 km/h), NASA officials have said.

Until 2024 Parker should approach the Sun at a distance of 6.1 million kilometers and transmit the collected information to Earth.

Before that, in the near spacecraft, which landed on this star, was "Helios-2", in 1976.

Parker Solar Probe - jointly operated by NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - went past the record at 2:54 a.m. GMT on Tuesday 30 October (10:54 p.m. Monday 29 October EDT). Even the massive Delta IV Heavy (above) that launched the Parker Solar Probe on 12 August 2018 falls well short.

The Parker Solar Probe is now expected to continue its approach, passing through the corona, or the sun's outer atmosphere, next week, reaching within 15 million miles of its surface.

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And NASA's Parker Solar Probe, travelling at more than 240,000km/h, isn't yet done with setting new records. On 31 October, Parker will encounter the Sun for the first time and reach the first perihelion on 5-6 November (10:28 pm EST/3:28 am UTC).

The Sun-bound mission is expected to last around seven years, during which the probe will orbit the planet Venus to get closer to the Sun.

To withstand the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield. This is around 7 times closer than the previous closest spacecraft which was within 27 million miles of the sun in the year 1976.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31", Mr. Driesman said.

To learn as much as it can about the solar winds, Parker needs to get as close as possible to these eruptions.

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