On August 4th, United Launch Alliance (ULA) aims to launch a big Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to send NASA’s Parker Solar Probe into an orbit that will bring it far closer to our home star than any previous spacecraft has dared go. (Perhaps your name is aboard the probe.) A cutting-edge heat shield enables the probe to fly directly through the corona, which is the extremely hot ionized plasma that surrounds the Sun.
Here is a new NASA video about the mission:
More about the mission at Parker Solar Probe: Humanity’s First Visit to a Star | NASA:
In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. The spacecraft will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. (Earth’s average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles.)
Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.
A simulation of the orbit that will bring the probe closer and closer to the sub at perigee: