Your mother told you never to look into the sun, but NASA must have never gotten that message.
The space agency on Wednesday announced its plan to fly a probe directly into the sun’s atmosphere.
The Parker Solar Probe, named for astrophysicist Eugene Parker, is set to launch next summer. It will park in orbit four million miles from the solar system’s star, where it will endure “heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history,” according to NASA.
The exploration of the sun’s outer atmosphere hopes to improve forecasts for space weather events that have an impact on Earth, as well as collect data to answer scientists’ long-held questions about the solar wind and other mysteries.
Parker first theorized the existence of solar wind, publishing an article in 1958 that posited that high-speed matter and magnetism was escaping the sun. It has since been proven to exist.
“This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
“It’s a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day. I’m very excited to be personally involved honoring a great man and his unprecedented legacy.”
The announcement came during a ceremony honoring astrophysicist Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.