NASA Unveils Plan To 'Touch The Sun'.
Despite humanity's reliance on the sun to survive, not much is known about the blazing star at the center of the universe. In fact, it's one of the least understood objects in the solar system. NASA announced a plan to change that, not just to better understand the sun, but to prevent possibly deadly threats from solar weather.
With a planned launch in 2018, (http://solarprobe.jhuapl.edu/) the Solar Probe Plus will travel almost seven years to get close to the sun, (http://www.popsci.com/nasa-solar-probe-2018) according to a report published Tuesday in Popular Science.
"In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Solar Probe Plus to touch the sun," NASA said on its website.
Partial motivation for the probe came from a recent study by the National Academy of Science which said that without adequate warning, a significant solar event could cause the United States two trillion dollars in damage and knock out power to the eastern seaboard for an entire year.
"Until we can explain what is going on up close to the sun, we will not be able to accurately predict space weather effects that can cause havoc on earth," (http://solarprobe.jhuapl.edu/index.php#the-mission) NASA said in its mission outline.
The craft will be equipped with a 4.5-inch thick carbon shield to protect it from temperatures of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe will travel within four million miles of the sun's surface, closer than any other spacecraft ever has before.
"Going to a place changes everything we think about a place. Just look at New Horizons and how it's changed our thoughts, beliefs and understanding of Pluto," NASA heat shield mechanical engineer Beth Congdon told Popular Science. "We're really excited to go and totally change our view of the sun."