After a successful mission studying the rings and moons of Jupiter and the landing of the Mars rover, NASA is turning its eyes towards the sun. In a release posted to its website, NASA explained that a solar probe is set to launch in the summer of 2018.
Solar Probe Plus already has a nifty countdown clock on its website, so you can plan accordingly around the historic launch, which should happen between July 31 and August 19, 2018, if everything goes according to plan. After launching, the probe will begin its exploration, zooming past Venus and Mercury on its way to orbit the sun.
When it arrives at the sun, the Solar Probe Plus will make itself at home four million miles above the sun's surface. According to NASA, from there, the probe will "explore the sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations." Scientists are already loading up the Solar Probe Plus with advanced tech. The Energetic Particle Instrument-Low Energy (EPI-Lo), is the first thing to get installed. It'll measure the low-energy particles that come off of the sun, but scientists are still adding more and more to the probe, so there's no telling just what information it'll send back when it's fully locked and loaded. Back in April, the probe got its cooling system installed, which is probably pretty important for something that's basically face-to-face with the sun itself.
NASA hopes that the Space Probe Plus will offer further insight into the sun's effect on space weather as well as the physics that happen within it. Plus, researchers are hoping to use information gathered by the probe to improve the conditions faced by astronauts and satellites in space, so this isn't just a fun jaunt to get some rays.
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