While many have lamented
the end of the space-shuttle era, NASA has quickly turned to dreaming up the next grand space adventure: sending
an unmanned solar probe to "plunge" into the Sun's atmosphere and
investigate its properties. The mission, which is slated for
2018, will equip the Solar Probe Plus
with a heat shield able to withstand temperatures over 2,550 degrees
Fahrenheit, aiming to "provide answers" to questions that
scientists have wrestled with for decades. Pundits explain what exactly
the mission will entail:
- It's No Theatrical Stunt reports
Kit Eaton at Fast Company. The Solar Probe Plus will have five missions
as it ventures near the sun: it "will measure electrons, protons and
helium ions in the solar wind, produce amazing wide-field 3-D images of
the Sun's corona, detect the electromagnetic shock-wave concussions and
fields in the solar atmosphere, sample and detect the elements in the
atmosphere and attempt to work out the heliosphere's origins." Plus,
"sheer curiosity" is always at the root of such "awesome" missions.
- Aiming 'for the Heart of the Sun (Literally)' writes
Rebecca Doyle gleefully at Popular Science. The main thrust of the "five
missions" the Solar Probe will undertake is studying solar radiation.
"Improved solar storm forecasts could protect future long-distance space
explorers who would not be protected by Earth’s magnetic field," she
notes. "NASA’s goals are to figure out why the sun’s corona is several
hundred times hotter than the surface and why it produces an
accelerating solar wind....The only way to do it is to go to the source,
- 'It's A Region No Other Spacecraft Has Ever Encountered' marvels
Mashable's Stan Schroeder. The four million mile trip is slated to
leave sometime before 2018 and will hope to "solve" two key questions. Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in
Washington names them: "why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the
sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth
and our solar system?"
- Astronomers Have Dreamed About This For a
Half-Century since "the National Academy of Science's 'Simpson
Committee' in 1958 recommended a probe to investigate," observes Charles
Cooper. "Several studies were subsequently carried out to test the
feasibility of the project, but nothing came of them." Until now, that
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