NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has set a new record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sun, the U.S. space agency announced Monday.

The space agency said the probe was well on its way to break the 153,454 miles per hour milestone set by the Helios 2 in April 1976.

PSP's mission is due to last seven years, with the probe set to fly up to 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the sun's surface - seven times closer than any spacecraft before it.

Andy Driesman, Parker project manager, said: "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". Like the Parker Solar Probe, Helios 2 was a probe sent into solar (heliocentric) orbit to study the processes on the Sun.

Seven hours later the probe had reached a speed of 69.72 km/s (kilometres per second, which translates to around 250,992 km/h or 155,959 mph) relative to the Sun.

NASA expects to get the first batch of data in December, but the spacecraft has another mission: it holds a memory card with the names of over 1.1 million people who signed up to "travel" to the Sun. It's 42.73 million km (26.55 million miles) away from the Sun, and it is still getting close.

The Parker Solar Probe will continue to accelerate and close in on the sun until around 3:30 a.m. GMT on 6 November (11:30 p.m. 5 November EST), when it will reach "perihelion" - the closest point in its orbit, and begin its long swing back out past the orbit of Venus. But NASA's Parker Solar Probe zoomed inside that distance today (Oct. 29), crossing the threshold at about 1:04 p.m. EDT (1704 GMT), agency officials said.

The NASA Parker Solar Probe blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, this summer.

The probe is comparable in size to a small auto and NASA expects it to reach speeds of 430,000 miles per hour. Until then, the probe will make 24 close approaches.

He also explained that they're very proud, but will also "remain focused on our first solar encounter". However, these storms can disrupt satellites, power grids and rattle our planet's magnetic field.

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