Parker Solar Probe survives humanity’s first close Sun approach

Brittany A. Roston - Nov 8, 2018, 4:14 pm CST
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Parker Solar Probe survives humanity’s first close Sun approach

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has survived its first close approach to the Sun, the space agency has announced. The spacecraft is officially the only human-made object to get within 15 million miles of our star, a record previously set by the Helios B back in 1976. The Parker Solar Probe made its closest approach to the Sun on November 5; data sent back to scientists on Earth indicates it survived the event in excellent condition.

The Parker Solar Probe is a spacecraft designed to give humans an unprecedented observation of the Sun. The technology is the result of six decades of innovation, according to the space agency, which designed the probe to take care of some issues autonomously.

The probe set two new records last month, the first involving humanity’s closest approach to the Sun, the second involving its speed: Parker Solar Probe is officially the fastest spacecraft traveling relative to our star. For reference, the spacecraft set that particular “closest approach” record by creeping within 26.55 million miles of the Sun.

That makes the probe’s 15 million mile distance only a couple weeks later all the more impressive. The spacecraft was subjected to intense heat and radiation during its first “closest approach,” something it handled without issue. According to NASA, it received data back from the spacecraft indicating an “A” status, which is the best of four status signals.

At that status, Parker Solar Probe has retained all of its instruments in functioning order and it continues to make scientific observations. If the spacecraft had experienced any issues from its approach, says NASA, it was able to correct them without human intervention.

The Parker Solar Probe hit a top speed of 213,200MPH, a new spacecraft record. Each orbit closer to the Sun will result in the probe breaking its own previous record. Though the probe isn’t as close to the Sun as it will ultimately travel, its Thermal Protection System is already dealing with temperatures around 820F, something that NASA says will increase to around 2500F as its orbit continues.


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