Science

Solar probe Parker flew closer to the Sun, all the other spacecraft

Solar probe Parker flew closer to the Sun, all the other spacecraft

The spacecraft on Monday passed within 26.55 million miles of the Sun's surface, beating the previous achievement, set by the German-American Helios 2 in April 1976. It is the first NASA mission to be named after a living individual.

USA space agency NASA boasted in a statement the Parker Solar Probe will continue to break even more records as it makes numerous approaches to the star.

During its mission, the probe will dip in and out of orbit around the Sun reaching within 3.83 million miles of its scorching surface. It is expected that in 2024 it is as "fit" to the Sun at a distance of 3.83 million miles.

The previous record was set back in 1976.

Nasa has confirmed that its Parker Solar Probe is now closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever been.

Helios 2 also set the mark back then for fastest speed relative to the sun, at 153,454 miles per hour (246,960 km/h). Even the massive Delta IV Heavy (above) that launched the Parker Solar Probe on 12 August 2018 falls well short.




The first of these two dozen close encounters is just around the corner: It officially begins Wednesday (Oct. 31), with perihelion (closest solar approach) coming on the night of November 5. The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun's surface on October 29, 2018, at about 1:04 p.m. EDT, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team.

The spacecraft sports a special carbon-composite shield to protect itself and its instruments from intense heat and radiation during its close flybys.

Over time its orbit around the Sun will become shorter, but also more elliptical, meaning that the probe will be travelling progressively faster at perihelion (the closest point to the Sun) and slower at aphelion (furthest point from the Sun).

The NASA Parker Solar Probe blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, this summer. "We are proud of this event, although we continue to focus on our first solar meeting, which starts on 31 October", says project Manager Andy Driesman.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.