NASA May Send Robotic Spacecraft To Sun Next Year

USA space agency NASA wants to send a mission to the Sun with the aim of solving some of the most perplexing questions about our host star. The Solar Plus Probe will most likely approach the sun at about four million miles away from the surface, confronting excessive radiation and heat.

NASA hopes to launch the probe between July 31 and August 18 in 2018, according to reports.

Moreover, the space probe will also focus on finding answers to the age-old questions like "what is the nature of Sun's structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields, formed by the by the burning star and how the dusty plasma impinges on the configuration of solar wind and an energetic particle?" Until now, the closest spacecraft were Helios 1 (launched December 1974), which flew within 29 million miles (47 million km) of the sun, and Helios 2 (launched April 1976), which flew 1.8 million miles (3 million km) closer to the sun than Helios 1. "Why the atmosphere is hotter than the surface is a big puzzle", Christian said.

We live in the sun's atmosphere!

"You'd think the farther away you get from a heat source, you'd get colder", Eric Christian, a NASA research scientist at the Greenbelt, Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center, told LiveScience.com. "We can't get to the very surface of the sun", but the mission will get close enough to answer three important questions, he said. The 2005 and earlier missions involved one or two flybys of the Sun at a perihelion distance of 4 RS by a spacecraft placed into a solar polar orbit by means of a Jupiter gravity assist. And the probe is supposed to get within the range of 4 million miles (6 million kilometers) from the sun.

Scientists are hoping to use the probe to gather data to help forecast space weather events that affect Earth, like solar flares and storms that knock out communications on Earth and can cause quite a bit of damage. "We can't get to the very surface of the sun", he added while affirming the importance and significance of this mission. These particles are a danger to astronauts and spacecraft. "Data will be key to understanding and, perhaps, forecasting space weather", said Nasa. The challenges of such a mission While the mission is an unmanned project, there is still the need for protection of the spacecraft itself and the sensitive instruments it will carry.

The viability of sending a probe to the sun has always been questionable, but NASA says that it is possible.

NASA has designed a 11.4 centimetres carbon-composite shield, which is created to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft of 1,370 degrees Celsius.

Its instruments will be kept at room temperature through thermal radiators or heat tubes, which will direct heat that comes through the shield back into space. The probe will also be protected from radiation that could ruin the electrical circuits inside the probe.

  • Tracy Ferguson