North American Space Agency (NASA) is launching the Parker Solar Probe mission this year to study various aspects of the Sun. The space agency is inviting people from across the globe to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip that will be carried on the probe. However, only a few days remain for this opportunity as the last date is April 27.
The invitation to ‘send name to Sun’ is spreading awareness of the mission and increasing the popularity of space science. William Shatner, the iconic Star Trek actor, has already signed up. Space buffs and young scientists are enthusiastic about the development and many have sent their names.
The probe will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, taking readings, and face brutal heat and radiation conditions. According to the NASA website, Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said, “This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before. This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
The mission is vital for that branch of space science known as heliophysics or physics of the Sun. It means the physics of the entire Sun from centre to corona, the aura of plasma that covers the Sun. Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is vital and supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.
According to NASA, the spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from the star’s surface. The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
To perform the experiments, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield to tolerate temperatures outside that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,370 degrees Celsius. This heat shield will protect the instruments studying magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and the solar wind.
The spacecraft’s speed will be around 4,30,000 mph or 6,92,000 km per hour, possibly the fastest manmade
object so far.
This is the first time a spacecraft is named after a living individual. NASA has named the spacecraft as Parker Solar Probe in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. Parker serves as the S Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, at the University of Chicago. He is credited with coining the term solar wind in the 1950s and describing how the sun and other stars give off the energy that drives space weather.
Bloomberg quoted a scientist as saying that the Parker Solar Probe is likely to be launched between July 31 and August 19. During its seven-year mission, the probe will fly past Venus seven times, gradually shrinking orbit and eventually entering the Sun’s corona, getting within 4 million miles of the surface.
The mission will boost understanding of the sun, which can send energy to the Earth with the potential to knock out power grids and communications, damage satellites and expose aircrews and astronauts with radiation
Send your name to the Sun:
Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here: http://go.nasa.gov/HotTicket