The first spacecraft to "touch" the sun is inching closer and closer to its momentous launch. Come August 4, the Parker Solar Probe will venture directly into the sun's atmosphere, "where it will collect unprecedented data about the inner workings of the corona," notes the U.S. space agency.
As reported by the Inquisitr, this historic journey will bring the solar probe as close as 4 million miles from the sun's surface.
In order to make it through the inhospitable environment of the solar corona and come away unscathed from humanity's first mission to the sun, the Parker probe has been fitted with a "cutting-edge heat shield," NASA announced on Thursday.
Dubbed the Thermal Protection System, or TPS, the heat shield was mounted on the Parker spacecraft on June 27 and is described by the space agency as "revolutionary." Here's why.
Made up of two superheated carbon-carbon composite panels that enclose a carbon foam core in the middle, the TPS is extremely light but packs a very high protective power.
Weighing no more than 160 pounds (or about 72.5 kilograms), the heat shield installed on the Parker probe is strong enough to withstand the scorching temperatures of the solar corona.
The shield measures eight feet in diameter and is designed to cast a shadow, also known as an umbra, on the car-sized spacecraft, protecting everything under it from the blistering solar blaze.