NASA has launched a secret mission to the Sun!
WWN has learned that NASA launched a mission to the sun – last August. It will be launching a second mission to the sun in 2018.
In 2011 NASA launched a spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and it’s mission is to fly dangerously close to our star.
Fitted with a select set of instruments, Solar Probe Plus will address two questions that solar physicists have tussled with for decades: How does the corona, that ghostly, spiked halo seen during a total solar eclipse, heat to more than a million degrees, far hotter than the sun’s surface? And what powers the solar wind, the stream of charged particles that flows from the corona?
An up-close look at the sun will help scientists predict solar flares, as well as coronal mass ejections — “solar storms” like those launched at Earth last week. These events send a barrage of high-energy particles crashing against the Earth’s magnetic field, at times disabling satellites, wiping out power grids, forcing airlines to reroute flights and potentially exposing astronauts to fatal doses of radiation.
Scientists have sent probes to the solar system’s edge, but never so near its heart. Coming within 3.7 million miles of the sun’s surface — 25 times closer than Earth — the 1,350-pound unmanned spacecraft will heat to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and endure 512 times the sunlight of vessels orbiting Earth. It is expected to make its first approach from that distance in 2014.
The mission “will undoubtedly have impact on our ideas about how life operates throughout the universe — if life does operate throughout the universe — how our planet evolved and how we’re going to contend with the further exploration of space,” said Richard Fisher, director of NASA’s heliophysics division.
Half a century in the making, with an estimated price tag of $1.2 billion and barely 88 pounds allotted to experimental hardware, the project spawned fierce competition among heliophysicists for a piece of the action.
Other spacecraft have ventured toward the sun before: In 1976 the Helios 2 mission came within 27 million miles. The European Space Agency plans to launch a solar orbiter in 2017 that will come as close as 26 million miles.
Solar Probe Plus was built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Scientists have talked of such a journey since the 1950s, but plans were always logistically fraught and prohibitively expensive. Time and again, the mission was revived and then shelved.
NASA also plans to send astronauts to the Sun – within five years.