This past Sunday, NASA made history by launching the Parker Solar Probe. The Parker Solar Probe was constructed to study space weather events. In more scientific terms (since I like to nerd out when I read about what this probe can do), the probe “will employ a combination of in-situ measurements and imaging to achieve the mission’s primary scientific goal: to understand how the sun’s corona is heated and how the solar wind is accelerated” (NASA.org) Space weather can damage spacecraft and endanger astronauts, making them it a priority that NASA can detect and predict them. The data from the probe will be able to help NASA track and predict these events This will make planning future space exploration safer for the equipment, and more importantly, the astronauts. As such the Parker Space Probe is a vital step towards the exploration of our solar system, and it will be a vital tool in the advancement of space technology.
The space probe will be studying four things along its mission that “will continue until 2025” (Space.com). A special camera called the Wide Field Imager will be used by the probe to create images of solar events such as solar flares. FIELDS, another instrument onboard the Parker Solar Probe, will measure electric and magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere. This data can then be studied by scientists to see how these fields can affect solar weather. Finally, two sets of instruments will be studying solar wind particles. Solar winds are a type of solar weather that consists of plasma and particles ejected from the sun. One set, the Solar Wind Electrons Alpha, and Protons will gather solar wind particles and study the particles, collecting data on the particles. The other set which will study how the particles reach a certain speed is known as the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun. The data from these instruments will give scientist insight on how and why solar weather occurs. This data would be useful in future space exploration because it could allow scientist to plot courses for spaceships so that the spaceships can avoid any solar weather events that could affect the safety of astronauts or the equipment used.
Although this probe has the potential to be a huge achievement in solar research, it’s the biggest achievement may be a technological one. When it nears the end of its seven-year voyage, the Parker Space Probe will “become the fastest human-made object” (NBCnew.com). Reaching a speed of 430,000 miles per hour (692018 Kilometers per hour), this probe will hit this landmark on December 24, 2024. This incredible speed will be reached not due to high propulsion engines, but instead by the sun itself. As the probe gets closer and closer to the sun, the pull of the sun’s gravity will cause the probe to move faster and faster. Eventually, it will hit its top speed, becoming the fastest human-made object. This probe could quite possibly be one of mankind’s best achievements in the next several years.
Bartels, Meghan. “How NASA’s New Solar Probe Will ‘Touch’ the Sun on Historic Mission.” Space.com, Space.com, 10 Aug. 2018, http://www.space.com/41424-parker-solar-probe-sun-science.html.
“The Big Pull That Will Make the Parker Solar Probe the Fastest Human-Made Object.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/big-pull-will-make-parker-solar-probe-fastest-human-made-ncna900721.
Jhuapl. “The Mission.” Parker Solar Probe, parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/The-Mission/index.php#Journey-to-the-Sun.