“Parker Probe Plus Heading Straight for the Sun!” Not just your normal sensational Thunderbirds-style headline, but this one is actually true!
About a year ago we did an article on real life science projects that mirror various episodes from classic Anderson shows. You can read that article here!
One of the projects we covered was NASA’s Solar Probe Plus. A space probe that will launch in 2018 that will explore the outer Corona of the Sun and send back information about the surface. (We even produced some lovely art with “Sun Probe” the Gerry Anderson equivalent).
One year before it’s launch Solar Probe Plus has come back onto our radar with the news of a new name change. From now on the Probe will now be referred as “Parker Probe Plus”.
Now obviously Anderson fans will jump at the obvious connection to Thunderbirds and possibly conclude its a reference to the episode “Sun Probe”.
In fact Parker Probe Plus is actually named after Professor Eugene Parker, a Solar astrophysicist who discovered solar winds. Nearly 60 years ago, Parker first coined the term solar wind to describe the stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the sun. Find out a little more about him and his discovery in his own words below.
Parker, who turns 90 on June 10, also received NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal at the ceremony.
“I’m certainly greatly honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission,” he said.
The spacecraft is scheduled for launch during a 20-day window that opens at the end of July 2018. A Delta 4 Heavy, equipped with an additional third stage, will launch the spacecraft, and seven Venus flybys over seven years will put the spacecraft into an orbit that brings it to within six million kilometers of the sun’s photosphere on its closest approach.
On those close approaches, the spacecraft will be protected by a heat shield made of carbon composite material more than 11 centimeters thick. The heat shield will keep the spacecraft at roughly room temperature while the shield is exposed to conditions approaching 1,400 degrees Celsius.
Direct connection or not, needless to say we are glad to see life imitating art and we wish the Parker Probe Plus mission significantly more success then the Sun Probe mission. Just as long as they’ve fixed those retros…