Next summer’s maiden, unmanned mission to the sun’s atmosphere will travel at 430,000 miles per hour, whipping the distance between New York City and Tokyo in about a minute’s time, NASA scientists said Wednesday.
Details of the “unprecedented” mission to “touch the sun” came as the agency announced it was naming the spacecraft after renowned astrophysicist Eugene Parker, whose work has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of the sun.
The probe will use advanced material technologies able to stand up to blistering temperatures of 2,500 degrees as it approaches the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere. It will make critical observations that NASA hopes will answer decades-old questions about how stars work.
“Solar probe is going to be the hottest, fastest mission,” joked Nicola Fox, the mission project scientist. “I like to call it the coolest, hottest mission under the sun.”