As promised, NASA has made an announcement related to its sun investigation mission, the now-formerly named Solar Probe Plus. The space agency, it turns out, has decided to change the mission’s name to Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker who published a study in 1958 detailing a phenomenon that is now known as solar wind. “This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual,” Science Mission Directorate associate administration Thomas Zurbuchen explained.
Earlier this week, NASA revealed plans to make a formal announcement related to the sun mission, an unprecedented attempt to get a spacecraft within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface. That announcement took place today during a ceremony at the University of Chicago, the same place where Parker is named S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus for its Astronomy and Astrophysics department.
The mission name change is ‘a testament to the importance of his body of world, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day,’ Zurbuchen explained. ‘I’m very excited to be personally involved honoring a great man and his unprecedented legacy.’
The solar mission is a major one, marking the first time humans have sent a probe ‘close’ to the sun in search of answers. The Parker Solar Probe will help solve mysteries related to solar physics that have existed for years, and in some cases, decades. The spacecraft will be launched in July 2018.