The sun is the source of light on earth and not only does it make life possible on earth but in some cases, it also wreaks havoc too. The solar flares ejected by the sun that make its way to earth can cause significant damage to the power grids, aircraft and satellite systems. Even worse damage is done to the space crafts and the astronauts onboard. In order to predict space weather and prevent damage to the systems on the ground, NASA is sending a mission impossible to the sun.
To make this rather impossible task possible, NASA is working with John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to develop a spacecraft code named as Solar Probe Plus (SPP). The American space research organisation is also collaborating with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, which will be building special sensors for the spacecraft that would take off in 2018.
During its trip round the sun, SPP will set many records including the one for becoming the fastest moving man-made object by travelling at a record speed of 200 kilometers per second. Apart from this, this solar spacecraft would pass within 6.4 million km of the sun’s surface, becoming the first spacecraft in history to travel at a distance of 37.6 million km closer to the sun.
During its mission, it will endure temperatures exceeding 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1371 degrees Celsius approx). To put into perspective, this temperature is greater than the temperature of the volcanic lava (oops!).
SPP may not survive this mission but it serve us till its last breath. Apart from helping us to understand the sun better, it would help us in gaining a better understanding of the risks the solar weather poses to the modern communication including telecommunications, GPS, satellites, aviation and power grids.