Washington: NASA is developing an unprecedented mission to study the Sun closer than ever before.
The project, named Solar Probe Plus, is scheduled to launch no later than 2018.
The small car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the Sun’s atmosphere approximately four million miles from our star’s surface.
It will explore a region no other spacecraft ever has encountered.
NASA has selected five science investigations that will unlock the Sun’s biggest mysteries.
“The experiments selected for Solar Probe Plus are specifically designed to solve two key questions of solar physics - why is the Sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the Sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?” said Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington.
“We’ve been struggling with these questions for decades and this mission should finally provide those answers.” As the spacecraft approaches the Sun, its revolutionary carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures exceeding 2550 degrees Fahrenheit and blasts of intense radiation.
The spacecraft will have an up close and personal view of the Sun enabling scientists to better understand, characterize and forecast the radiation environment for future space explorers.