NASA is on the verge of reaching where no one has ever gone before. The Sun! Yes, that’s right, NASA will soon be launching its Parker Solar Probe on a mission where it is expected to reach closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft yet. The probe will be flying into the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona. This is where the violent storms erupt which majorly threaten our planet’s technology and lifestyle.
This 1.5 billion-dollar spacecraft will be flying within 3.83 million miles of the solar surface. Although it appears like a safe distance, the closeness to the Sun is about seven times more than any previous spacecraft’s attempt. Here in the corona, the temperatures fluctuate from 1 to 5 million degrees Fahrenheit with the presence of viscous solar flares. So what could possibly be the reason for the mission?
The Sun, despite being a major life supporting component, poses a major threat to our modern lifestyle. Violent eruptions sometimes spark on the Sun’s surface due to the presence of powerful magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.
These ejections fire a surge of highly-charged particles into space that have the tendency to fry any electronic circuits on contact. That includes circuits inside our satellites that control cell service, the internet, GPS, the stock exchange and almost every other major technological component on the planet. Such a strike could cost an estimated $2 trillion in damage – 10 times more than Hurricane Katrina.
In reality however, space being a huge place, our planet becomes a small and less probable target. In fact, the last time a powerful storm like this struck our planet was way back in 1859. However, the risk always exists. NASA predicts that there’s a 12% chance we’ll get hit within the next decade. Hence, this mission is imperative. The probe can study the corona and help us in understanding the warning signs of a potential upcoming storm and equip ourselves better. Hopefully with enough notice, we may be able to protect our satellites from harm.
Another major aspect that should be taken care of is the prevention of the melting of the probe in its proximity to the Sun. For this, NASA has prepped the probe with four highly-tuned sensors and an impressive heat shield that will protect the probe’s instruments. The mission will involve but 24 dives into the Sun which are scheduled to take place up through the year 2025. This is a major step towards saving money, technology and lives during potential disastrous storms in the future. This is a step towards a convenient and safe future and its efforts in making the endeavor successful is commendable.