An artist’s impression of Solar Probe Plus. Image Credit: NASA
The Sun has always held a great fascination for humankind due to its incredible life-giving, yet destructive heat, and we might soon know much more about it thanks to NASA’s Solar Probe Plus. This intrepid spacecraft follows in the footsteps of Helios 1 and Helios 2, which launched in 1974 and 1976 respectively and continued returning data about the Sun until the 1980s. This pair of solar probes are still in heliocentric orbit, travelling at record-breaking velocities of 252,792 kilometres (157,078 miles) per hour.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is due to set off from Earth on 30 July 2018, getting closer to the Sun than any man-made object ever has before. Back in March, the probe underwent advanced design and testing, meaning that building work was finally given the green light. This exciting development brought the project – which was originally announced back in in 2008 – a step closer to its ultimate goal of getting to within 8.5 solar radii (6 million kilometres/3.7 million miles) of the Sun.
It will do this by swinging around the Sun then using Venus as a flyby anchor, flinging it back towards the ...