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

An artist's impression of the probe near the sun Pic NASA

An artist's impression of the probe near the sun Pic NASA

Solar probe Parker, which launched July 31, has already set a record - he became the closest to the Sun man-made object in the entire history of space flight. Prior to this, in April 1976, the German-American Helios made the record for cruising closest to the Sun at 26.55 million miles.

During its 7-year mission, the probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun, coming within 3.8 million miles of its surface, and dip into the corona, the plasmic aura that is even hotter than the surface.

Late on Monday, the probe was also expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun. The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976, according to NASA.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before.

Over the next seven years the Parker Solar Probe will repeat this manoeuvre six more times, losing a little bit of orbital energy with each pass. "This is a significant moment for us, but we continue to focus on the first maximum closer to the Sun, which should begin on 31 October".




NASA's Parker Solar Probe blasts off from Cape Canaveral on its mission to the Sun.

The spaceship is "expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun on October 29 at about 10:54 pm EDT (Tuesday 0254 GMT)", NASA said. The relatively small, 685kg spacecraft needed to achieve a high speed in order to establish an orbit around the Sun-rather than getting drawn into the star's massive gravity well never to escape.

Nicky Fox, Parker Solar Probe's project scientist, added: "The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world". The spacecraft uses a special carbon-composite shield for protection from intense heat and radiation during close flybys.

The craft will seek to unlock some of mysteries about our Sun's behavior by sampling the corona, the birthplace of solar flares and other violent events, and get a better understanding of how solar winds are formed.

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