A NASA satellite just made history. Parker Solar Probe has placed itself in the record books after it became the closest to approach to the sun. Parker Solar Probe surpassed German-American Helios 2 on the list. German-American Helios 2 floated 26.55 miles from the sun in 1976.
The Parker Probe is also set to surpass Helios 2 for fastest speed relative to the sun. Helios 2 currently holds the record for fastest speed relative to the sun since it reached 153,454 mph. Right now, Juno Jupiter spacecraft holds the record for top speed relative to Earth. Juno Jupiter reached 165,000 mph in 2016 when it arrived at Jupiter.
This is the first of many record breakers for Parker Solar Probe. The probe will examine the star for the next seven years, and it will only get closer. Parker Probe is scheduled for 24 more flybys. The $1.5 billion project took off on Aug. 12 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The satellite is scheduled for a 2025 flyby that will approach the sun from 3.83 million miles. The closer the probe reaches the sun, the faster it goes. Our giant star’s massive gravity pull will accelerate Parker Probe to nearly 430,000 mph. Parker Solar Probe will already smash its own distance record on November 5.
“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 John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in a statement. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.”
Parker Solar Probe wields a unique carbon-composite shield. The shield protects the probe and its instruments from extreme heat and radiation while it executes its close flybys. The tools are set to record numerous measurements during the encounters.
The objective of the probe is to better understand the giant star’s structure, composition, and activity. The data will assist answer long-standing questions. Why is the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) significantly hotter than the surface? What accelerates the charged particles of the solar wind to such amazing velocity?