Parker Solar Probe, NASA's historic mission to solve the mysteries of the Sun, is alive and well after being discovered by the Sun just 15 million miles from its surface. This is much closer than any other spacecraft has gone (the previous record was set by Helios B in 1976 and broken by Parker on October 29) and this maneuver has exposed the spacecraft to intense heat and solar radiation in a complex solar wind environment, NASA said in a statement Thursday.
On November 5, the spacecraft made the closest approach, called perihelion. Parker's solar probe reached a maximum speed of 213,200 miles per hour, setting a new record for the spacecraft's speed. At this distance, intense sunlight warmed the side of Probe's thermal protector, which faces the sun, called the Thermal Protection System, at approximately 820 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will rise to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as the spacecraft gets closer to the Sun, NASA said.
"Parker Solar Probe was designed to take care of itself and its valuable useful load during this close approach, without any control of us on Earth, and now we know it succeeded," said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the Directorate of Scientific Missions of NASA in Washington. On November 7, the mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory received the ship's status beacon at 4:46 p.m. (EST).
The beacon indicated state "A": the best of the four possible status signals, which means that Parker Solar Probe is working well with all instruments executing and collecting scientific data and, if there were minor problems, the spacecraft solved them in an autonomous way. Parker is the culmination of six decades of scientific progress. "Now, we have realized the first visit of humanity to our star, which will have implications not only here on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe," Zurbuchen added.
The first solar encounter phase of Parker Solar Probe began on October 31, and the spacecraft continued to collect scientific data until the end of the solar encounter phase on November 11. There will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the scientific data begins. Downlinking to the ground. The spacecraft repeatedly breaking its own speed record as its rite gets closer to the star and the spacecraft moves faster and faster in the perihelion, NASA said.