NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

In addition to its new distance record, NASA also expects the Parker Solar Probe will break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun shortly before 11PM EDT tonight. The spacecraft, which was launched in August with an ambitious goal to "touch the Sun" - not literally, though, - is created to re-think our understanding of the Sun's corona and solar winds.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has set a new record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sun, the USA space agency announced Monday.

Yesterday, it surpassed the record of 26.6 million miles (43 million kilometers) from the sun set by Helios-2 back in 1976.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31", said Andy Driesman, project manager for the probe with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, in a statement.

The Parker Solar Probe passed the record at about 10.34 pm Indian time on Monday, NASA said.

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Its final close approach - coming just 3.83 million miles from the Sun's surface - is expected in 2024, NASA said. The probe is still moving closer to the Sun and should reach its first relatively close encounter with the star on November 5.

To withstand the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.

As the spacecraft moves closer to the Sun, it will "face brutal heat and radiation conditions while providing humanity with unprecedentedly close-up observations of a star and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades". The sun's gravity will eventually see the probe reach speeds of about 430,000mph. "It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31".

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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