NASA has a whole bunch of fancy hardware checking out several of the planets in our solar system, including Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, but astronomers do most of their observations of our sun from here on Earth, or at least nearby. A new mission is going to change that in a big way, and NASA is set to reveal details regarding its immediate plans to fly a spacecraft directly into the star’s atmosphere shortly.
The agency is scheduled to hold a news conference on Wednesday, May 31st, to formally announce detailed plans about the launch of a solar probe that will fly closer to our star than any manmade spacecraft has ever dared venture. Scientists working on the project will provide additional information about the mission, which was first proposed over a half century ago.
The mission, which will last roughly seven years, is scheduled to begin in mid 2018, though more details about that may soon be disclosed. During its tripe, the probe will made repeated flybys of the the sun, passing through the orbits of Mercury and Venus numerous times as it gradually flies closer and closer to our star each time. Eventually, the craft will come within four million miles of the sun, traveling at nearly half a million miles per hour, and its carbon composite heat shield will be forced to withstand temperatures of over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough to melt steel, and just shy of the melting point of iron.
The press conference is scheduled for 11:00 AM EST, and will be streamed live via NASA’s video page.