Parker Solar Probe Is Officially The Closest Spacecraft To The Sun

The solar probe just broke two all-time records on its way to 'touch' the sun.

Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

The solar probe just broke two all-time records on its way to 'touch' the sun.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — the world’s first mission to “touch” the sun — has ventured closer to the sun than any other man-made object before it, NASA announced earlier this week.

The spacecraft officially broke the world record for the closest approach to the sun on October 29, at about 1:04 p.m. EDT. At the time, the Parker Solar Probe got closer than 26.55 million miles (42.7 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, up until now the record belonged to the German-American Helios 2 mission — which managed to come as close as 26.98 million miles (43.4 million kilometers) to our star on April 17, 1976.

“It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said Andy Driesman, who manages the project at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter.”

Throughout its seven-year mission, the Parker Solar Probe is bound to break its own record as it flies even closer to the sun to perform a total of 24 orbits of the incandescent star. During the final orbit, scheduled for 2024, the Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s fiery atmosphere — known as the solar corona — coming within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million kilometers) from the surface of the sun.

“We’re getting closer to ‘touching’ the Sun!” NASA tweeted on Monday.

But wait, there’s more. Nearly 10 hours after smashing this impressive record, NASA’s intrepid spacecraft obliterated yet another one — also previously held by the Helios 2 mission.

“At about 10:54 p.m. EDT, Parker Solar Probe surpassed 153,454 miles per hour — as calculated by the mission team — making it the fastest-ever human-made object relative to the sun,” NASA revealed in a subsequent blog post.

The formidable spacecraft set two new records on the same day and is on its way to even greater achievements. In 2024, the Parker Solar Probe is expected to reach a top speed of about 430,000 miles per hour — or 0.0006 percent the speed of light, notes Gizmodo.

Last month, the Parker Solar Probe set its sights back on Earth and snapped a lovely space portrait of our home planet, the Inquisitr recently reported.

Next up for the pioneering spacecraft is the first solar encounter — an exciting phase that begins today and will set the Parker Solar Probe on the path to its first perihelion next week. According to NASA, the probe is scheduled to reach this first closest point to the sun on November 5 about 10:28 p.m. EST.