Send your name to the Sun; NASA

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An individual probably might not go to space anytime soon. But his /her name could. NASA is continuing its long tradition of sending people’s names into the cosmos with the Parker Solar Probe, set to blast off towards our host star (Sun) this July.

 

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission – scheduled to launch in summer 2018 – will travel through the sun’s atmosphere and get closer to the solar surface than any spacecraft before it. You can send your name along for the ride.

To commemorate humanity’s first visit to our own star, NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard the Parker Solar Probe. Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here.

The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles (6.4 million km) from its surface. The primary science goals for the mission, said NASA, are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. The spacecraft speed is so fast, at its closest approach it will be going at approximately 430,000 miles (692,000 km) per hour. That’s fast enough to get from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo in under a minute. Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, is the mission project scientist.

NASA named the spacecraft the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. This was the first time NASA named a spacecraft for a living individual. In this photo, Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, visits the spacecraft that bears his name on October 3, 2017. Engineers in the clean room at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the probe was designed and built, point out the instruments that will collect data as the mission travels directly through the sun’s atmosphere.

 

To perform its investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.4 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees C). This heat shield will keep the four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind, at room temperature.

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