NASA has announced that its Parker Solar Probe has set a new record for closest approach to the sun by a human-made object. The Parker Solar Probe was launched this year for a seven-year journey to study the sun and its effects on space weather. The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles (42.73 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface which was set by the German-US Helios 2 satellite in 1976. The closest it is expected to get is 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s surface which it will reportedly do so in 2024. Project Manager Andy Driesman from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in the U.S stated, “It has been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history… It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31.” The probe is also expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the sun, with the current record being 153,454 miles per hour, set by Helios 2 in 1976.
The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft’s precise speed and position using NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). The DSN sends a signal to the spacecraft, which is then retransmitted back to the DSN, allowing the team to determine the spacecraft’s speed and position based on the timing and characteristics of the signal. The spacecraft will have to face brutal heat and radiation to provide humanity with unprecedented observations of a star
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