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NASA Launching Spacecraft Into the Sun

NASA has announced plans to travel to the sun in 2018. The Agency said it will launch an unmanned spacecraft called Solar Probe Plus into the sun's hot atmosphere to answer questions that have plagued scientists for years.

It will take Probe Plus eight weeks to arrive at the sun. According to Discovery, it will then begin the first of 24 orbits using flybys of Venus to gradually shrink the distance between it and the sun. Though Solar Probe Plus will remain four million miles away from the sun, Discovery reports that it's mission will take it eight times closer to the sun then any other spacecraft, and it will be entering the sun's corona, which means it will have to withstand temperatures of up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA is still deciding what instruments will be included on the spacecraft, but for now, we know that the main purpose of the mission is to find out how the sun's heating mechanism works and determine how it whips up the solar wind.

"We want to know what it is that accelerates the plasma," Andy Dantzler, Solar Probe Plus project manager, told Discovery News. "We know it has to do with magnetic fields, but we don't really know how that comes about."

Wired reports that the UK Space Agency also has plans to send a probe to the sun to carry out similar tasks, and if all goes according to plan, their spacecraft will launch in 2017, a year before the NASA probe.

Further Reading

Discovery News

Wired UK

  • nightcrawl3r
    Very interesting.
  • the_krasno
    Well, solar power is not going to be an issue there! I hope they find out those things. It's not really useful to us, but it's interesting. Curiosity, not money, should be the drive for a scientific mind!
  • Pyroflea
    Very interesting. Makes me wonder what materials they plan on building this craft out of, as temperatures in that vicinity are tremendous.
  • extremepcs
    When I read the headline I was thinking it would arrive at the sun in December of 2012... LOL
  • el_samky
    jajaja waiting 2018!! I wanna know interesting.-
  • jomofro39
    This is very interesting.
    "A Recession! Nonsense! This is NASA, let's throw something that costs a billion dollars into the sun."
  • sacre
    "Unmanned Spacecraft" Well damn I hope so, If I heard the opposite than this story would be a hell of a lot more interesting.
  • JamesSneed
    By 2018 it it will have a force field driven by solar power to protect the probe.
  • Haserath
    Yes, the sun is very hot. Is that all you needed to know ;)
    extremepcsWhen I read the headline I was thinking it would arrive at the sun in December of 2012... LOLAh yes, the sun exploding on December 2012 from NASA's spacecraft, what a way to go.
  • kcorp2003
    imagine if that spacecraft crash into the sun and then started a chain reaction to explode the sun? OH NO!! i hope that won't be the case. besides do we really have have a metal that won't melt at those extreme temperatures at close to the sun atmosphere? wow. Looks like "The Core" movie is coming to reality