NASA Solar Probe Breaks Record for Closest Spacecraft to Sun

Enlarge Image This illustration shows the probe nearing the sun.                  NASA  Johns Hopkins APL  Steve Gribben

Enlarge Image This illustration shows the probe nearing the sun. NASA Johns Hopkins APL Steve Gribben

Solar spacecraft smashes records for speed and proximity to the Sun (PHOTOS) A NASA probe has gotten closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft, coming within 26.65 million miles of the solar surface - and set the record for the fastest-ever man made object in the process.

NASA said in a statement, "Spacecraft crossed the record distance of 26.55 million miles recorded from the Sun's surface at 1.04 a.m. on October 29".

Its current distance from the Sun is still quite large, but that'll change as the probe continues to creep closer and closer, eventually reaching just a few million miles from the center of the Solar System.

"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history", Project Manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., said in a press release.

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The spacecraft lifted off from Earth on August 12 earlier this year.

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"Parker Solar Probe will repeatedly break its own records, achieving a top speed of about 430,000 miles per hour in 2024", NASA's Sarah Frazier wrote in a blog post. The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976.

It is scheduled to reach its first perihelion on November 5 at 10 p.m. EST.

Parker's first close encounter with the Sun is scheduled for October 31. Last April 17, 1976, approached the Sun at 43,4 million km. how many probe Parker surpassed standing 42 years of record, is not specified.

This illustration shows the probe nearing the sun.

Parker Solar Probe employs a host of autonomous systems to keep the spacecraft safe without guidance from Earth - including automatic retraction of the solar panels to regulate their temperature, attitude control using solar limb sensors that ensures all of the instruments remain in the heat shield's shadow, and a sophisticated guidance and control system that keeps the spacecraft pointed correctly. Along the way, the probe will send back all kinds of data and readings as it studies the Sun's outer atmosphere and helps scientists better understand what makes it tick.

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