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A year later, on December 24, NASA's Parker Solar Probe will fly in front of the Sun at an astonishing speed of 195 kilometers per second, or 435,000 miles per hour.
No man-made machine has ever traveled so fast, 6.1 million kilometers, and no man-made machine has ever been so close to the “surface” of the Sun.
“We're actually going to land on a star,” said Parker Project Scientist Noor Raoofi.
A scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory told BBC News: “This will be the greatest achievement for all of mankind. It will be the equivalent of landing on the moon in 1969.”
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The Parker Probe's speed comes from the enormous gravitational pull it feels as it falls toward the Sun. The journey will be like traveling from New York to London in less than 30 seconds.
The US space agency's Parker Solar Probe is one of the most daring missions.
The probe was launched in 2018, with the aim of making frequent and close passes of the Sun.
The Parker Maneuver will cover only about 4 percent of the distance between the Sun and Earth (149 million kilometers) in late 2024.
Parker faces a major challenge in performing this maneuver because at the closest point in the spacecraft's orbit to the star, the temperature at the front of the spacecraft can reach 1,400 degrees Celsius.
Parker's strategy is to make measurements of the solar environment using an array of instruments spread out behind a thick thermal shield.
Researchers hope to gain a wealth of data and information about some key solar processes.
One of the most important goals is to get a clear description of how the corona, the Sun's outer atmosphere, works.
The Sun's temperature at its optical surface is about 6000 degrees Celsius, but inside the corona it reaches a million degrees Celsius and more.
And in the corona region, the outward flow of charged particles – electrons, protons and heavy ions – accelerates, suddenly moving as a supersonic wind at a speed of 400 km / s.
Scientists cannot yet fully explain this, but it is important for improving predictions of solar behavior and “space weather” phenomena.
This matter represents powerful bursts of particles and magnetic fields from the Sun, which can cause communications on Earth to deteriorate and destroy power grids, and the radiation poses health risks to astronauts.
Dr. Raoufi said: “It takes on a new dimension, especially since we are now thinking about sending women and men to the moon and establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface.”
Parker approached the Sun on Friday. Three more flybys are planned for 2024 before orbiting Venus on November 6th, making December 24th a historic event.
NASA's Chief Science Officer Dr. Nikki Fox was Parker's principal scientist before taking on her current role.
The main advantage of the December 24 flyby was the length of time the probe spent in Corona, which was much longer than the previous pass.
“We don't know what we will find, but we will look for waves in the solar wind associated with warming and warming,” Fox told the BBC.
“I think we're going to feel different kinds of waves that represent a combination of processes that people have been arguing about for years,” he added.
The following year would be the pinnacle of Parker's career. It won't get close to the Sun until after December because its orbit won't allow it to approach Venus, but if it gets close, it risks casting a shadow over Parker's large shield that exposes the back of the vehicle. That the satellite temperature can not tolerate.
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