On May 31st, at the University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Centre Auditorium, officials from National Aeronautics and Space Administration will announce a new mission, Solar Probe Plus (SPP), to travel closer to the Sun than ever before.
Solar Probe Plus (SPP) will launch in summer of 2018 and travel closer to the Sun than we have ever been, in order to unlock some of the hot questions in the world of physics:
“Placed in orbit within four million miles of the Sun’s surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work,” said NASA. “The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.”
One mystery that scientists will hope to answer is that of the Corona. The Sun’s outer atmosphere is far hotter than its surface, with temperatures reaching a sizzling 500,000 degree Celsius or higher.
At the distance NASA plans to send the probe, The Solar Probe Plus will have to withstand some immense temperatures of up to 1,400 degree Celsius and radiation unlike anything a manmade probe has seen before. To protect the spacecraft, NASA has developed a thick carbon-composite heat shield to defend against the harmful energy of the Sun.
“Scientists are already loading up the Solar Probe Plus with advanced tech. The Energetic Particle Instrument-Low Energy (EPI-Lo), is the first thing to get installed. It’ll measure the low-energy particles that come off of the sun, but scientists are still adding more and more to the probe, so there’s no telling just what information it’ll send back when it’s fully locked and loaded.”
The craft should cost in the region of $180 million to develop, and will be equipped with the latest imaging equipment we have. It will have a solar wind particle detector to measure magnetic fields, and other imaging devices to perform the planned tests and send back some incredible images.
The European Space Agency has also announced a major project to study the Sun, and will work with NASA and other space agencies on the Solar Orbiter which has similar aims, but will launch 2 years later in 2020 and can work on any details missed by Solar Probe Plus