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NASA Aims for the Sun, Agency May Send a Solar Probe in 2018

Feb 28, 2017 08:43 PM EST
Post-Flare Loops Erupt From Suns Surface
NASA will send a spacecraft near the Sun. The Solar Probe Plus aims to reveal the mysteries of the sun.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

NASA may be launching another lunar mission in 2018. Reports say that the agency will send a spacecraft near the Sun at about 4 million miles (6 million kilometers).

In order to do that, NASA will have to develop a spacecraft that can withstand the heat of the Sun without melting even before it is able to perform experimentation and observations. The mission is called the Solar Probe Plus and NASA is almost certain that the mission will push through on its target launch next year.

"This is going to be our first mission to fly to the sun," said Eric Christian, a NASA research scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said in a statement. "We can't get to the very surface of the sun."

One of the key roles of the mission is to study the sun's photosphere and why it is a bit cooler than the sun's atmosphere or corona, according to a report. Based on studies, the surface of the sun is at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 degrees Celsius) compared to the 3.5 million degrees Fahrenheit (2 million degrees Celcius) temperature of the sun's atmosphere.

The mission will also look into the acceleration of the solar winds. The solar winds are composed of charged particles that are being blown away at far distances at millions of miles of speed. So far, it can only be observed using cameras and telescope and this mission will be the first time a spacecraft will fly near in order to understand the phenomenon. The solar mission is also in preparation for deeper space explorations. Scientists will look into the danger of solar energetic particles that poses a threat the astronauts and spacecraft traveling in space.

According to NASA, the Solar Probe Plus will revolutionize men's knowledge about the sun. The agency also released a concept of the spacecraft that will fly close to the sun.

"To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun's heat by a 4.5-inc-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celcius)," a NASA official said.

Scientists believe that in order to fully understand the sun, the gap between the planet and its star should be reduced by flying near it. This mission will give humans a glimpse of the Sun's surface that could not be viewed from Earth since it gets smeared by heat.

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