NASA MAKES PLANS TO PUT THE FIRST MAN ON THE SUN
September 11 2010
Washington, D.C. – There are almost limitless wonders in the universe, many of which we know of, many of which are likely still out there waiting for us to discover. While much speculation about other life forms is the sexiest of mysteries and wonders
in the Heavens, there are things that are much more plausible and much more tangible and, perhaps, far more compelling. Pulsars, Quasars, and dark matter are just a few of those marvels awaiting us in the world beyond our own.
Some of those marvels exist in our own solar system. The mountains of Mars for example or the flowing rivers of Europa are just a couple of examples of the remarkable sights in our own neighbourhood. Of course the greatest sight of all is the heart of our system, the thing that keeps all the planets in line and provides our planet with the ability to sustain life. The glowing mass of energy at the centre of our solar system is more than just a light in the sky, it likely contains the elemental origins of the Universe itself and could provide us with many answers about why we are here and where we may be going. For centuries though we have only looked at the sun from afar but now an ambitious new plan from NASA seeks to bring humanity closer than ever by finally landing a man on the surface of the star.
“The experiments selected for Solar Probe Plus are specifically designed to solve two key questions of solar physics — why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?,” said Dick Fisher of NASA. “We’ve been struggling with these questions for decades and this mission should finally provide those answers. This is an incredibly ambitious project and one that is fraught with danger like all our missions but when successful, will provide us with incredible insight into the nature of the Universe.”
The agency has not yet selected who will be on the vessel which will be launched sometime before 2018.
“I remember as a kid talking to my parents about someday landing on the sun and
they just laughed me off, told me it was impossible and I guess at that time it was. Things have changed though and our science in this realm has advanced so far it makes sense to plan this type of thing,” said Scrape TV Science analyst Dr. Howard Poe. “Frankly I feel 2018 is a little ambitious but it could serve to light a fire under people, so to speak, and get things moving just like the movement to put people on the moon. Still, the technology is going to have to come a long way. Aside from the fact the sun is really hot, its outer core is mostly gas and has nothing to land on really.”
The surface of the sun is approximately 5500 degrees Celsius.
“Aside from having to have a ship that can travel in through the corona and somehow hover on the surface, you also need to worry about things like solar flares which are things that we frankly haven’t locked down yet. That is a science that will be incredibly aided by this mission but is also important for the success of the mission,” continued Poe. “It’s going to be a challenging mission to be sure but this is science. You don’t get anywhere by playing things safe. The whole job of science is to question the status quo and understand the things that resist being understood. “
NASA has recently opened a training facility in the Bahamas but it’s not clear if the two projects are linked.
Anna Phillips, Science Correspondent