Solar Probe 'alive' after being closest ever to Sun

Members of the Parker Solar Probe mission team celebrate on Nov. 7 2018 after receiving a beacon indicating the spacecraft is in good health following its first perihelion

NASA's Parker Solar Probe - mankind's mission to touch the Sun - is alive and well after its first close encounter with our star's surface. The probe passed by our star at a distance of just 15 million miles. According to NASA, it received data back from the spacecraft indicating an "A" status, which is the best of four status signals.

Fifteen million miles is far closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever gone-the previous record was set by Helios B in 1976 and broken by Parker on October 29. On November 5, the spacecraft set a new record of reaching a top speed of 213,200 miles per hour.

Scientists feared that the probe will be damaged due to the close approach to the Sun, however, the object survived and passed the first signal.

The spacecraft is equipped with a thick heat shield that protects the instrument-loaded backside of the probe, but it can only do its job if it's pointed in the right direction.

"Parker Solar Probe was created to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from us on Earth - and now we know it succeeded", said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington said, "Parker Solar Probe was created to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from us on Earth - and now we know it succeeded".

At this distance, the intense sunlight heated the Sun-facing side of the probe's heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, to about 820 degrees Fahrenheit (438 degrees Celsius).

The closest approach to the Sun is planned for mid-December 2024, when Parker will be at a distance of six million kilometers from the star. But if there any issues, the spacecraft is well created to solve it by itself, stated NASA.

According to NASA, members of the Parker Solar Probe mission team celebrated after hearing the spacecraft was operating in good health again following its first perihelion (its closest approach).

The first phase of convergence will end on 11 November and a few weeks later, the probe will transmit to Earth science data. Each orbit closer to the Sun will result in the probe breaking its own previous record.

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