NASA has built and tested space probes before, but none of them were destined to get as close to the Sun as Parker will, creating new challenges for testing the probe. Sad to see that 28 years later, the news media is still having trouble with certain space terminology. If I could bet that the probe will be dysfunctional after the first approach to the Sun at those 6 million kilometers, I would probably make the bet.
Sadly, most people have no idea of the physics involved. Admittedly, other missions we were looking at, the trajectories and their objectives, did not blur as easily in memory. The Halley Comet probes are one big example here, as NASA sent no vessels to that famous iceball in 1985, a major shame.
The same can be said of the science that happened this year. Of one thing, the University of Delaware physicist has no doubt: “We can be fairly certain that some unexpected things are going to be found out”.
The Parker Solar Probe will use seven gravity assist Venus flybys over the next seven years to slowly shrink its orbit around the Sun. Now, that sounds easy in one way and hard another way…
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben