NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Becomes Closest Human Made Object to Sun in History

Parker Solar Probe, shown in this animation,
became the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun on Oct. 29, 2018, when it passed
within 26.55 million miles (43 million km) of the Sun’s surface. Credit:  NASA/JHUAPL
Ken Kremer     SpaceUpClose.com     30 October 2018
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – In a truly groundbreaking
feat, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe became the closest human-made object to the Sun
in history on Monday, when it plunged passed the current record of 26.55
million miles from the Sun’s surface on Oct. 29, 2018, at about 1:04 p.m. EDT.
”Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for
closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object,” NASA announced in a
statement released Oct 29.
Parker smashed through the existing 42 years old
record set by the German-American Helios 2
spacecraft
back in April 1976 – and will continue setting astounding
new records over the course of its seven year mission as it dives ever closer.
Indeed the first solar perihelion encounter (the
point closest to the Sun)  period begins
on Halloween, Oct 31, followed by closest solar approach on Nov. 5 at about
10:28 p.m. EST.
Eventually she will swing by the sun within a
final close approach of 3.83 million miles in 2024 while soaring by at a record-breaking
speed of nearly 500,000 MPH.



“It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe
launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in
history,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied
Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. 



“It’s a proud moment for the team, though we
remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct.
31.”  



At about the same time Parker plunged to the
record-breaking solar distance in history, it also broke the speed record for a
human-man object.



“Parker Solar Probe is also expected to break
the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun on Oct. 29 at
about 10:54 p.m. EDT. The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454
miles per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976.”



Illustration of the
Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun.  Credits: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory

To accomplish this unprecedented task Parker
will encounter and must survive brutal heat and radiation conditions.


The mission was only enabled by the development of
a state-of-the-art heat shield to protect the spacecraft. The sun facing side
will reach temperatures of 2500 degrees F, while the other side facing the
spacecraft and all its systems and science instruments will experience
temperatures of only about 85 degrees F.
Why travel so close to the sun?
Parker will provide “humanity with
unprecedentedly close-up observations of a star and helping us understand
phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades.”
“These observations will add key knowledge to
NASA’s efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate
out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.”
The mission will conduct 7 Venus flyby’s to
set up 24 perihelion close encounters with the sun through 2024. The Venus
flyby’s will
precisely
set its trajectory toward the Sun and slow the probe down instead of speeding
it up.
The probe recently snapped a glorious view looking back
home to all humanity as it continues diving towards its first close encounter
with the Sun.
The view from Parker
Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument on Sept. 25, 2018, shows Earth, the bright
sphere near the middle of the right-hand panel. The elongated mark toward the
bottom of the panel is a lens reflection from the WISPR instrument.
Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe

The magnificent view of the ‘Earth from Space’ –
seen below – was snapped from a distance of 27 million miles (43 million km) from
her Home Planet as the spacecraft was speeding to its first flyby of the Planet
Venus setting up the trajectory for the 1st close flyby of the Sun.


A close-up of Earth from
WISPR’s Sept. 25, 2018, image shows what appears to be a bulge on our planet’s
right side — this is the Moon.  Credits:
NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe

“On Sept. 25, 2018, Parker Solar Probe captured
a view of Earth as it sped toward the first Venus gravity assist of the mission,”
NASA announced in a statement.
The $1 Billion mission began with a dazzling
middle-of-the-night blastoff of the mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket in the wee
hours of the morning, Aug. 12 – and delivered the car sized spacecraft to its
intended trajectory towards Venus and the Sun.

The
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
to touch the Sun and dive into the corona, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m.
EDT from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. From
camera at pad.
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The 23-story tall triple barreled United
Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket successfully launched at 3:31 a.m. EDT
Aug. 12 from the Florida Space Coast and put on a brilliant display of fire
power with 2.1 million pounds of thrust spewing forth from the trio of liquid
oxygen/liquid hydrogen RS-68A main engines that quickly turned night into day a
few hours before the natural sunrise under nearly cloud-free skies.
 

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA,
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct
from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.


Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human
spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the
KSC area.
………….

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Parker Solar Probe Mission Trajectory Map on Oct. 29, 2018. Credit:
NASA/JHU

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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