NASA's Parker Solar Probe has clinched the record for closest approach to the Sun by a man-made object, the space agency confirmed Monday.
NASA announced its new milestone today, saying that according to its team's calculations, the Parker Solar Probe exceeded Helios 2's 26.55 million miles record on Monday afternoon.
During its 7-year mission, the probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun, coming within 3.8 million miles of its surface, and dip into the corona, the plasmic aura that is even hotter than the surface.
Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield.
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In August, the Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Earth aboard a Delta IV Heavy booster. The earth's average distance from the sun is 93 million miles. "It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31". The previous record was set by the German-American Helios 2 probe in April 1976.
NASA expects to get the first batch of data in December, but the spacecraft has another mission: it holds a memory card with the names of over 1.1 million people who signed up to "travel" to the Sun.
The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft's precise speed and position using Nasa's Deep Space Network, or DSN. The measurements were last made on October 24, and the information was used to calculate the speed and position in the following days.
The spacecraft will face brutal heat and radiation conditions while providing humanity with unprecedentedly close-up observations of a star and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades, according to the USA space agency. The probe is still moving closer to the Sun and should reach its first relatively close encounter with the star on November 5.
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While NASA is hopeful that the rover will attempt to call home, the team is also prepared for an extended period of silence. On May 30, NASA first detected the swirling dust storm that would soon enshroud all of Mars.
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