It was a busy week for the people who took control of the sun-drenched Parker Solar Probe at NASA. After breaking a few records last week because of the distance from the sun and the speed with which she was traveling, the probe began the week with the first of its two dozen planned flybys of the star.
After patiently waiting for the probe to complete its run and collect all sorts of data, NASA reports that the probe called home to tell its engineers that it's fine. This was the first major test for the probe and its suite of self-managing security features. It looks like everything will work as intended.
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"The Parker Solar Probe has been designed to protect itself and its precious payload during this close approach, without any control from us on Earth – and now we know it has succeeded," said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA in a statement. "Parker is the culmination of six decades of scientific advancement. Now we have realized the first close visit of humanity to our star, which will have effects not only here on Earth, but also for a deeper understanding of our universe. "
NASA understands the intense environment the probe has to deal with when traveling around the sun, and has designed it to withstand incredible temperatures. The spacecraft is equipped with a thick heat shield that protects the rear of the probe loaded with the instrument, but it can only do its job if it points in the right direction. To ensure that the shield remains at the correct angle, the sensor is automatically held in the correct orientation by a series of sensors on the edges of the probe.
For the first round, NASA stated that the probe had temperatures around 820 degrees Fahrenheit. It may sound crazy, but it's nothing compared to the 2,500-degree temperatures it faces when the star approaches the star in the next half-decade. These temperatures are blocked by the heat shield, while the rest of the probe, according to NASA remains in the mid-80s.
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