NASA spacecraft smashes record for closest approach to Sun

Ismael LynchNov 02, 2018

The impressive mission in getting so close to the sun is on its way, and the Parker Solar Probe has already broken some of the records. The earth's average distance from the sun is 93 million miles.

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.

Parker's first close encounter with the Sun is scheduled for October 31.

At 10:54 p.m. EDT, the craft also broke the speed record set by Helios 2, surpassing 153,454 miles per hour. This is around 7 times closer than the previous closest spacecraft which was within 27 million miles of the sun in the year 1976.

The space agency said the probe was well on its way to break the 153,454 miles per hour milestone set by the Helios 2 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.

Parker blasted off on its odyssey atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the early hours of August 12, 2018. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun's corona, the outermost part of the star's atmosphere.

The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft's precise speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31", Driesman added.

Over time its orbit around the Sun will become shorter, but also more elliptical, meaning that the probe will be travelling progressively faster at perihelion (the closest point to the Sun) and slower at aphelion (furthest point from the Sun).

The spacecraft is carrying a number of state-of-the-art instruments, allowing NASA scientists to collect vital data in order to answer fundamental questions about the Earth's closest star.

After that, the space probe will gradually creep closer to the Sun's surface until it reaches its closest possible distance on November 5.

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