Somewhere around 2018 NASA will be carrying out 5 experiments to discover more about our sun via a small car-sized spacecraft as part of a project called Solar Probe Plus. The experiments are designed to answer two key questions about our sun – why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that effects Earth and our solar system?
From the press release we get
As the spacecraft approaches the sun, its revolutionary carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures exceeding 2550 degrees Fahrenheit and blasts of intense radiation. The spacecraft will have an up close and personal view of the sun enabling scientists to better understand, characterize and forecast the radiation environment for future space explorers.
NASA invited researchers in 2009 to submit science proposals. Thirteen were reviewed by a panel of NASA and outside scientists. The total dollar amount for the five selected investigations is approximately $180 million for preliminary analysis, design, development and tests.
You can find out more about the project at its website: http://solarprobe.gsfc.nasa.gov/
There is also apparently a 30-second video for the project as well (via Fast Company).