NASA just built the fastest man-made object ever

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Image Artist's concept of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun. Pic NASA

The probe, which is described as the size of a small auto, features a 4.5-inch thick carbon fiber and foam shield that will help protect the spacecraft from the Sun's intense heat.

And as it draws near, the spacecraft will be accelerated by our star's intense gravity to a stupendous speed - estimated to be 430,000 miles per hour.That will make the probe the fastest human-made object, eclipsing the twin Helios probes that zoomed along at 157,000 miles per hour on their sun-circling trajectories.

"According to a statement from Nasa, the probe is due to orbit within six-and-a-half million kilometres of the Sun's "surface", where the probe will "(face) heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history".

The craft's mission is to help scientists understand more about the nature of the sun by taking measurements of solar winds, a flow of ionised gases.

The spacecraft will fly through the sun's corona multiple times to answer several questions, like why it is millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the sun itself. In reality, it will aim to eventually reach about 3.8 million miles away, well within the sun's atmosphere.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth. While the shield will be facing temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft will be at a toasty but tolerable 85 degrees.

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The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its 7-year mission.

The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958. Perhaps the best part is that Parker, the first living person to have a mission named for him, will watch the mission he pioneered lift off, too.

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

Roughly the size of a small vehicle, Parker will get almost seven times closer to the sun than previous spacecraft.

It has just been in the past several years that electronics can be sufficiently miniaturized and materials like Carbon-Carbon are available to create a heat shield that can protect instruments.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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