May 31 (UPI) — Having reached the moon and outer limits of the solar system, NASA will announce plans Wednesday to touch the sun.
Solar Probe Plus is scheduled to launch in 2018 between July 31 and Aug. 19 and fly directly into the massive star’s atmosphere
The spacecraft will be placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface, where the temperature is 10,000 degrees, and face heat and radiation unlike any other spacecraft in history, NASA said.
Temperatures will reach nearly 2,500 degrees outside the spacecraft, which will be protected by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.
Exploring the sun’s coronal magnetic field and how the solar corona and wind are heated are among the mission’s primary objectives, NASA said.
“Measuring the energetic particles near the sun, and flying an entire suite of instruments on such a Solar Probe is an exciting event in science almost 60 years in the making,” said Ralph McNutt of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed and built Solar Probe Plus.
The sun is 93 million miles from Earth. With a diameter of 864,000 miles, it is about 109 times the size of the Earth.