CHICAGO–NASA announced on Wednesday that the agency’s “unprecedented” mission to “touch the sun” will be named after the renowned astrophysicist Eugene Parker, whose work has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of the sun.
The mission, Solar Probe Plus, will launch in summer of 2018 and marks the agency’s first mission to fly into the sun’s atmosphere. Data collected during the mission is expected to improve forecasting of space weather events that impact life on Earth and the lives of astronauts.
The probe will come within four million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, according to NASA. The spacecraft will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that NASA is hopefull will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work.
It marks the first time that a NASA probe has been named after a living scientist, said Thomas Zurbuchen, who heads NASA Science Mission Directorate.
“Nature has become more beautiful, more complex” because of Parker’s work, Zurbuchen said,