Tomorrow, at 11 a.m. EDT, NASA will be making an announcement about a groundbreaking mission to fly directly into our Sun’s atmosphere.
NASA will be launching a probe named ‘Solar Probe Plus‘ in 2018. It will orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface and face the most extreme conditions any spacecraft has ever encountered. While in orbit, it will face temperatures of 1,370°C (2,500°F), it’s able to do this by making use of a 4.5 inch thick heat resistant carbon composite shield.
In NASA’s words, the purpose of the mission is to ‘explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work. The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.’
Understanding the Sun is also an economic issue, one recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the US alone, and the eastern seaboard of the US could be without power for a year.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow for the announcement. Below you can find a diagram of Solar Probe Plus’ proposed orbit and functionality.