Space agency, NASA, will launch its Parker Solar Probe later this year, with the goal of “touching the sun”, a feat which will be made all the more exciting knowing that it will carry millions of people’s names.
The US space agency announced the endeavor on Tuesday, calling on the public to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip. This microchip will then be placed aboard the Parker Solar Probe which will carry it all the way through the sun’s atmosphere. NASA claims that the probe will be subjected to “brutal heat and radiation conditions”.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said.
The Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft to be named after a living person, Eugene Parker, a Michigan State University graduate, and astrophysicist.
However, this isn’t the first time the space agency offered such participation to the public. In 2014, NASA offered a similar opportunity to 1.38 million people for its Orion spacecraft and again to 2.4 million people with the agency’s Insight lander set to launch later this year.
Previous participants of the NASA programmes are part of the agency’s “frequent flier” program which can be downloaded as a “boarding pass” that shows past participation. Those who wish for their names to touch the burning hot sun will need to submit their names at this link by April 27.
The Parker Solar Probe is a car-sized spacecraft that will attempt to travel into the Sun’s atmosphere. NASA said that the spacecraft will face heat and radiation “unlike any spacecraft in history”. According to the agency, this mission will hopefully improve future forecasts of space weather events that influence life on Earth, as well as astronauts, satellites, and stations in space.
Zurbuchen also hopes that the spacecraft will shed light on mysteries that scientists have tried to solve for more than six decades, including star formation.
NASA said that the Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the sun will come in at a speed of around 430 thousand mph. This speed is enough to travel between Washington D.C. and Tokyo in less than a minute, according to the agency.
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