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A NASA Spacecraft Just Broke the Record for Closest Approach to Sun

A NASA Spacecraft Just Broke the Record for Closest Approach to Sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has broken the world record for the closest approach to the sun ever achieved by a human-made spacecraft.

This handout photo released by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back on August 10, 2018.

The previous record was set by the German-American collaboration Helios 2 in April 1976.

These records will fall again and again over the course of the Parker Solar Probe's $1.5 billion mission, which began August 12 with a liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Parker will make 24 close approaches to the sun over the next seven years, ultimately coming within just 3.8 million miles (6 million kilometers).

More news: NASA's Opportunity rover to get some sun as Mars dust storm wanes

The probe surpassed the record of 26.6 million miles set by Helios-2 in 1976. "It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31".

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. The probe is still moving closer to the Sun and should reach its first relatively close encounter with the star on November 5.

Parker Solar Probe's speed and position were calculated using DSN measurements made on October 24, and the team used that information along with known orbital forces to calculate the spacecraft's speed and position from that point on.

Thanks to this spacecraft, humanity will receive unprecedented observations of its star, opening the door to new answers and understanding of the Sun.

'These observations will add key knowledge to Nasa's efforts to understand the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds'.


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