Later this summer, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft will begin a historic mission to our nearest star, the Sun. By measuring particles, electric fields, and magnetic fields, Parker Solar Probe will strive to answer Big Questions about the sources and variability of the solar wind. Understanding the solar wind is important, in part, because it carries energy and momentum from the Sun to the Earth, profoundly shaping the near-Earth space environment. To carry out its mission, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft must travel very close to the Sun, reaching a distance of less than 5 million miles from the solar surface. This orbit requires the spacecraft to endure extreme heat, extreme cold, and unprecedented speeds, all with minimal communication with Earth.
Dr. Malaspina will discuss the solar wind and the Big Questions that motivate Parker Solar Probe. He will describe the spacecraft, including its scientific instruments, challenges to its survival, and its orbit. Finally, he will present LASP’s contribution to the FIELDS instrument and report on preparations for this summer’s launch.
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