Solar Probe ‘alive’ after being closest ever to Sun

Christopher Davidson
November 10, 2018

Now, the NASA's Parker Solar Probe is "alive and well" as it made it through its first close approach to the Sun.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. "We have realized humanity's first close visit to our star, which will have implications not just here on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. More recently, this solar probe became the first human-made object in history to reach that close to our host star.

The Parker Solar Probe flew within 15 million miles (24 million kilometres) of the sun's surface Monday night.

However, mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the craft at on Wednesday, with a status "A" indication light.

NASA won't re-establish contact until Parker is far enough from the sun to avoid radio interference.

Members of the Parker Solar Probe mission team celebrate on November 7, 2018, after receiving a beacon indicating the NASA spacecraft is in good health following its first close solar flyby. During its perihelion (closest pass), the Thermal Protection System registered a temperature of 820 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Recall that the Parker probe Solar Probe the size of a auto and cost $1.5 billion launched on a rocket Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral in the USA state of Florida in August 2018. That might sound insane, but it's nothing compared to the 2,500-degree temperatures it will be faced with when it makes its closest passes of the star over the next half decade or so.

The probe also set a new speed record during its first solar encounter, which technically ran from October 31 through Monday. During its 24 trips around the sun, the probe will continually break this record as its orbit decays, and it passes closer and closer.

NASA said if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.

The Parker Solar Probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.

Using data whose transmission between the earth and the probe takes about 30 minutes, the researchers seek to better understand space weather, such as solar winds.

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