NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

Image The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

That's fast enough to travel from NY to London in about 1 minute 20 seconds (assuming someone got the atmosphere out of the way) and beats the previous record of 68.6 km/s (246,960 km/h; 153,453 mph) set by the US/German Helios 2 probe in 1976.

Harder, better, faster, stronger (and closer) - NASA's historic Parker mission is on a record-smashing spree and has no plans to stop yet.

29 Oct 2018 spacecraft, which was launched to study solar phenomena, was so close to the star that broke the record for the closest approach to the sun, according to NASA. This is seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles of the Sun in 1976. The previous record was set back in 1976, that having been bumped to second place at approximately 1:04PM EDT today.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object.

Later today, the solar probe should also break Helios 2's record for velocity relative to the Sun of 246,960 km/hour.

Parker blasted off on its odyssey atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the early hours of August 12, 2018.

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In September, NASA released the first picture taken of the Parker Solar Probe.

At the same time, the probe has to withstand huge temperatures of up to 1,377 Celsius (2,500 Fahrenheit). "This is a significant moment for us, but we continue to focus on the first maximum closer to the Sun, which should begin on 31 October".

The space agency explains that Parker's first solar encounter will start on October 31, this resulting in a flight progressively closer to the Sun until it reaches its first "closest" point on November 5.

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

Under the plan, Parker several times circled the Sun in elliptical orbit, with each new attempt to reduce the distance to the star.

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