NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

Американский зонд побил рекорд приближения к Солнцу

NASA's Parker Solar Probe set two records on October 29 - one for becoming the closest a man-made object has gotten to the sun, and one for becoming the fastest-ever human-made object relative to the sun.

Parker set its first record on Monday by becoming the closest spacecraft to the sun when it broke the previous record of 26.55 million miles (42.7 million kilometers) from the sun's surface set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.

"Parker Solar Probe will repeatedly break its own records, achieving a top speed of about 430,000 miles per hour in 2024", NASA's Sarah Frazier wrote in a blog post.

"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history", Project Manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., said in a press release.

"The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976."The $1.5 billion unmanned spacecraft launched in August, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of unsafe solar storms". It broke the record set by the Helios 2 probe in 1976.

On Oct. 31, 2018, Parker Solar Probe began its first of 24 solar encounters. And it will keep getting closer to the sun until it flies through the corona, or outer atmosphere, for the first time next week, passing within 15 million miles (24 million kilometres) of the solar surface.

Because of the spacecraft's distance from Earth and position relative to the Sun, it will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter before Parker Solar Probe begins transmitting this science data back to Earth.

Artist's depiction of the Parker Solar Probe.

Since its launch on August 12 from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, the probe has passed Venus and is heading closer to the Sun. Eric Christian, a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told UPI last month ahead of the probe's launch. "It would also be the first man-made object to go such a length in the solar system".

The spacecraft is able to fly so close to the sun because it has a special carbon-composite shield protecting itself and its instruments from intense heat and radiation. These observations will add key knowledge to NASA's efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.

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