NASA may soon fly a spacecraft into the sun. Yes, you heard it correct, the space agency plans to “Touch The Sun” by making an attempt to fly directly into its atmosphere. The U.S. based space agency plans to send a spacecraft into the sun’s atmosphere where it will be exposed to extraordinary levels of radiation and extremely high temperatures of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius. The details of this mission will be revealed by the scientists involved in it on Wednesday, May 31 at the University of Chicago.

NASA’s Solar Probe Plus to 'touch the Sun'

The Solar Probe Plus that NASA plans to send into the sun’s atmosphere will be lifted off sometime in July or August 2018.

The probe was designed, developed, and manufactured over a period of 50 years since the idea was first proposed. After its liftoff, the probe will make contact with the sun sometime in December 2024. It will approach the sun after flying by Venus and conducting an array of observations before it enters the sun's atmosphere.

How will the probe help scientists?

NASA stated that the probe will orbit the sun inside four million miles of its surface. The spacecraft will also explore its outer atmosphere and observe the same. This data will help researchers understand the working of stars. NASA also shared that the observations of the probe will help scientists predict major weather events that can have a huge impact on Earth, as well as the astronauts and satellites in space.

When will the probe head back to Earth?

The probe has been given a 7-year mission timeline and will likely head back to Earth in June 2025. After the Venus flyby, the spacecraft will advance towards the sun on a series of elliptical orbits. The distance between these orbits will eventually decrease and will leave the space probe within 4 million miles of the outer atmosphere of the sun.

In all its seven years, the probe will have in total 24 extremely close encounters with the sun. However, the probe will start its observations within three months of its launch.

About the spacecraft

The probe has been manufactured with a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield to withstand extreme temperatures of the sun and still make its observations.

The probe will be experiencing heat and radiation 500 times more than what we experience on Earth when it gets the closest distance from the sun. The spacecraft will be hurtling along in the space at a speed of 450,000 miles per hour.

Solar Probe Plus mission goals

The probe is being sent with the aim to have a better and in-depth understanding about space weather and events caused by the sun. The probe has also been launched to observe in what ways the sun impacts the life on Earth. In a recent study, it was estimated that a large-scale solar calamity could lead to damage worth two trillion dollars in the United States alone. To predict such happening, NASA undertook the initiative to send a probe close to the sun to learn more about the star.

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