To humans, the Earth is gigantic and seemingly never-ending. Our planet is miniscule next to other truly massive planets like Jupiter and even the gas giant is a mere speck compared to the Sun. The Earth is such a vast distance from the sun, our star looks tiny in the sky but the giant star holds 99.8% of the mass in our entire solar system.
The gigantic gravitational pull of the Sun is what keeps everything in place in our solar system from Mercury to Pluto and beyond. NASA says that the massive gravitational pull makes it surprisingly hard to get to the Sun. It takes 55 times more energy to reach the sun than it does to reach Mars according to NASA. One reason is that the Earth is moving 67,000 miles per hour almost entirely sideways relative to the sun.
The only way to reach the Sun with a probe or satellite is to cancel that sideways motion. NASA is tackling this challenge to facilitate the Parker Solar Probe’s mission to the Sun’s atmosphere. That probe needs to drop to 53,000 miles per hour of sideways motion to reach the Sun.
It will launch using a Delta IV Heavy rocket and on its trip, the probe will perform seven Venus gravity assists over the seven-year mission to shed sideways speed. Those gravity assists will help the probe to orbit closer to the sun for an approach only 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s orbit.
While shedding the unneeded sideways speed, the probe will pickup overall speed and that speed will be boosted by the extreme gravity near the Sun. The insane speed will mean the Parker Solar Probe will break the record and become the fastest-ever human-made object reaching an astonishing 430,000 miles per hour during its final orbits.