Blog 39 The Massive Parker Solar Probe Starts on its Mission to Kiss the Sun.
This blog was written by award-winning author, scientist, and adventurer Mark Kingston Levin PhD.
Figure 1. The Parker sun probe waiting to go on the Delta heavy rocket. It was launched August 12, 2018 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
The mission details include a first week deployment of the high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. The Parker Probe should also perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. This will be followed by instrument testing in early September. About a month later, data collection will start operations.
“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”
Parker Solar Probe will fly directly toward Venus first, which will allow Venus to give the Parker spacecraft a gravity assist in early October. The slingshot will add speed – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the sun. Parker Solar Probe will fly closer to the sun in early November at about 15 million miles. This area is known as the solar atmosphere or corona. This will set the first of many records, if all goes as planned.
Figure 2. NASA’s sun kisser is known as the Parker Solar Probe. It has launched and is on its way to kiss the sun.
During the landmark seven-year mission of the Parker Solar Probe, it is expected to make a total of seven Venus flybys and 24 total passes past the sun! That is an amazing and challenging plan, journeying steadily closer to the sun until it comes within 3.8 million miles of the solar surface. At this point, the probe will be traveling at about 430,000 miles per hour, which will make it the fastest-moving object made by humanity ever.
Figure 3. Dr. Eugene Park, a well-known physicist, was at the launch site watching his namesake start the complex solar mission.