As the fastest man-made object in history, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a groundbreaking spacecraft entrusted with unraveling the mysteries of our sun, has accomplished an amazing achievement. The probe recently achieved an incredible speed of 394,736 miles per hour (mph), which is 200 times faster than a rifle bullet and twice as fast as a lightning strike.
This groundbreaking record was set during the probe’s 17th swing near the sun on September 27, when it skimmed just 4.51 million miles from the solar surface. The mission, which began in 2018, has been meticulously managed by a dedicated team at Johns Hopkins, overseeing its design, construction, and operations. The probe’s latest milestone was made possible by a gravity-assist flyby from Venus, positioned approximately 67,237,910 miles from the sun.
The Parker Solar Probe’s primary objective is to investigate the sun’s corona, a magnetically intense region crucial for understanding solar outbursts that can impact life on Earth. This endeavor involves facing extreme conditions, such as temperatures of 2370°F and radiation 500 times stronger than that of Earth’s, which the probe bravely endured during its initial pass through the sun’s upper atmosphere.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, hailed the achievement as a monumental moment for solar science, emphasizing how understanding our sun’s evolution and its impacts on the solar system also enhances our comprehension of stars throughout the universe.
Looking ahead, the Parker Solar Probe is set to continue its mission, with seven more sun-examining orbits planned until the end of 2024. In its final moments, the probe will embark on an every-encroaching curve into the sun’s atmosphere, collecting vital solar winds data until it vaporizes in the intense heat. This poetic ending, becoming part of the solar wind, symbolizes the remarkable journey and contributions of the Parker Solar Probe to the realm of space exploration.