The Parker Probe is NASA’s Daunting Attempt of Getting a Close Look at the Sun

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Hopefully the scientists at NASA have learned something from Icarus and they won’t repeat his mistakes. Leaving mythology aside, it all began with Betsy Congdon, a tremendous engineer that spent the first 10 years of her career trying to build something that can withstand being too close to the sun.

Initially her team presented her with an interesting design that featured a heat shield made from carbon foam, which was smaller than a king size mattress. Another quirky test copy showed a spare being encapsulated inside a metal drum with a witty instruction written on it that said to not leave it in direct sunlight.

All jokes aside, the real probe is set to take off sometime in August, on 11th or soon after. After just six weeks it will fly past Venus and use its immense gravity force to redirect itself towards the middle of our solar system. After another six weeks would have passed the probe will reach the sun where, between this year and 2024, it will perform about two dozen fly-bys.

It will represent a great ordeal for the probe as the shield would have to protect the delicate electronics inside. Yet, Betsy isn’t scared at all. She is confident that the probe will do its job perfectly, based on how many times they tested it.

Provided it all goes well, this spacecraft will gather data concerning the corona’s plasma and the magnetic fields that help to shape it. Apparently, this data will help us decipher all kinds of mysteries related to the sun. Beside this daunting project that came with a $1.5 billion bill, in Hawaii scientists are completing a solar telescope of $350 million value, called Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope which will provide images that have been never seen before.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.