NASA’s Solar Probe Plus spacecraft to fly to the sun

Humans have sent spacecraft to the moon, Mars and even distant interstellar space, but could we send a spaceship to the scorching sun?

The answer is yes, and it’s happening soon.

In 2018, NASA plans to launch the Solar Probe Plus mission to the sun. Earth is about 93 million miles from the sun, and Solar Probe Plus is slated to get within 4 million miles of the blazing star. [What Will Happen to Earth When the Sun Dies?]

“This is going to be our first mission to fly to the sun,” said Eric Christian, a NASA research scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We can’t get to the very surface of the sun,” but the mission will get close enough to answer three important questions, he said.

First, the mission aims to reveal why the surface of the sun, called the photosphere, is not as hot as the sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. The surface of the sun is only about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But the atmosphere above it is a sizzling 3.5 million F,…

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