NASA’s Mission to the Sun

The American space agency NASA is planning a mission to the sun in order to explore the outer atmosphere of our solar system’s star.

The Parker Solar Probe and will launch in the summer of 2018. It is planned to go into orbit about 4 million miles from the sun’s surface, closer than any other man-made object in history. Astronomers expect to get information on the corona, the gases and plasma of the sun’s atmosphere.

The probe will also explore solar winds, storms and magnetic fields. These phenomena can affect communication and electric signals on Earth. In addition, scientists expect to get more data on space weather, which is important for longer future missions to Mars.

The probe, named after American solar astronomer Eugene Parker, can provide insight into the structure of our solar system and give us more information on how stars, like our sun, work.

The Parker Solar Probe  must cope with extreme  heat and radiation. The specially designed heat shield is over 10 cm thick and can withstand temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius.

The 7-year mission will be made up of 24 orbits around the sun. The probe will pass by Venus 7 times and use the planet’s gravity to position itself inside the sun’s outer atmosphere.

Up to now, the closest a spacecraft ever got to the sun was Helios 2 , which passed the star at a distance of 27 million miles in 1976.

 

Parker Solar Probe
The Parker Solar Probe – artist’s drawing

Words

  • affect = influence
  • astronomer = scientist who studies the stars and planets
  • atmosphere = the gases around a planet or the sun
  • cope = deal with a problem
  • data = information
  • explore = to find out more about something
  • gravity = the power or force that causes an object to be pulled towards a planet
  • heat shield = piece of metal that protects you from fire or extreme heat
  • in addition = also
  • insight = being able to understand something
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • mission = longer trip to an unknown place
  • orbit = to move around an object in circles
  • phenomena = something that happens or exists in nature and is studied because it is difficult to understand
  • position = to move to the correct place
  • radiation = waves of energy that come from light or heat
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = organisation that plans missions to planets and stars
  • surface = the top layer of a planet or star
  • withstand = to be strong enough to protect something