NASA probe in good health after closest-ever approach to Sun

NASA's Sun-Kissing Solar Probe Survives 1st Flyby of Our Star

Parker Solar Probe ''Alive'' After Being Closest Ever To Sun: Nasa

"Parker Solar Probe was created to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from us on Earth - and now we know it succeeded", said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Researchers hope to learn how energy and heat move through the sun's solar cornea and explore what accelerates both solar wind and solar energetic particles - discoveries six-decades in the making.

Now, the NASA's Parker Solar Probe is "alive and well" as it made it through its first close approach to the Sun.

An artist's illustration showing NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.

During perihelion, the spacecraft reached a top speed of 213,200 mph (343,100 km per hour) relative to the Sun, setting a new record for spacecraft speed.

The spacecraft zoomed within 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) of the sun on Monday (Nov. 5) - far closer than any mission had ever gotten before.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the spacecraft on November 7, 2018. The spacecraft was subjected to intense heat and radiation during its first "closest approach", something it handled without issue.

On Wednesday, Parker Solar Probe status beacon sent back home an "A", meaning the best of the four possible status updates.

At this distance, the intense sunlight heated the Sun-facing side of the probe's heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, to about 820 degrees Fahrenheit (438 degrees Celsius).

The spacecraft will repeatedly break its own speed record as its orbit draws closer to the star and the spacecraft travels faster and faster at perihelion, NASA said. "Now, we have realized humanity's first close visit to our star, which will have implications not just here on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe", said Thomas Zurbuchen from the NASA's Science Mission Directorate. For reference, the spacecraft set that particular "closest approach" record by creeping within 26.55 million miles of the Sun. "It will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the science data begins downlinking to Earth", said NASA.

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