NASA is inviting the public to ‘to come aboard NASA’s first mission to touch the Sun.’ The appeal to ‘get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line,’ invites people to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe.
The mission to fly the Parker Solar Probe through the Sun’s atmosphere to be assaulted by brutal heat and radiation will take your name (if you so choose) along with William Shatner’s and many others, along for the ride. Canadian actor Shatner is best known for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the Star Trek series and NASA has fittingly made a video with Shatner appealing to you to join him in sending your name to the Sun.
The mission will send the spacecraft, which is about the size of a car, protected by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 1,370C. According to NASA, this state-of-the-art heat shield will protect the craft and “keep the four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind at room temperature.”
The Parker Solar Probe will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 6.4 million kilometres from the star’s surface, travelling so fast, at its closest approach it will be going at approximately 692,000 km/h. That’s fast enough to get from Cape Town to Oslo in under a minute.
The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
The mission will launch in winter 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here.