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Science
02 Jun 2017

NASA's Parker Solar Probe: Humanity's first mission to the sun

NASA - 1969 for moon, 2018 for sun

In 1969, when Neil Armstrong from NASA's Apollo 11 mission took the first step on the moon and made history, it was immortalized by the famous quote, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Years and several missions later, NASA is now gearing up for its next great adventure; this time it's going to touch the sun.

Here's all about it.

In context

NASA - 1969 for moon, 2018 for sun
The next "small-giant" step for humanity

Parker

The next "small-giant" step for humanity

In an event at the University of Chicago's William Eckhardt Research Centre, NASA or National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that their next mission will be all about reaching into the atmosphere of our nearest star, the sun.

This unmanned mission would reach the sun's atmosphere, which is a blistering 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, all for science; to take the "small-giant" step.

Mission

A footnote in space history

There is history involved here too, as the Solar Probe Plus has been renamed to Parker Solar Probe, prior to its mission, after famous astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

Traditionally, NASA only renames missions after the launch and certification, but this is a first; a tribute to a man for his immense contribution to heliophysics and space science, which would potentially make this mission possible.

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Eugene Parker, the man behind it all

Theory

Eugene Parker, the man behind it all

Eugene Parker in 1950s came up with the theory that all stars, including sun, give off energy; he called that solar wind.

He also theorized that the solar atmosphere was hotter than the surface of the sun.

NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen said, "It's a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that (raised) many important science questions."

Space

Parker: I'm sure that there will be some surprises

Eugene Parker, effusive about the mission, said, "The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before."

Moreover, "it's very exciting that we'll finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what's going on in the solar wind. I'm sure that there will be some surprises. There always are."

This is a very significant moment in history

Probe

This is a very significant moment in history

The Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch during a 20-day window, which opens on July 31, 2018, and it will travel more than 430,000 miles per hour to reach its destination.

These are the moments when the geeks can't help but repeat the Star Trek quote, "Space, the final frontier" and Parker Solar Probe will "boldly go where no man has gone before."

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