NASA is giving people the chance to send their names to the sun aboard its Parker Solar Probe, which will plunge into our star’s atmosphere on a quest for science.
The probe is scheduled to launch this summer and will head straight for the sun, getting closer than any spacecraft has ever gotten before. It will dip into the sun’s atmosphere —“facing brutal heat and radiation conditions,” according to NASA— and send data back to scientists on Earth.
Experts hope the mission will help answer questions about how heat and energy move through the corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, and unlock the mysteries behind the solar wind, the clouds of charged particles that the sun blows out toward planets.
When the sun’s charged particles reach Earth, they interact with the planet’s magnetic fields and the gases in our atmosphere, creating the colorful light displays known as auroras. They can also be a nuisance, interrupting satellite and radio communications and interfering with power stations.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
The spacecraft will get within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface and will use a thick shield to protect its instruments from the 2,500 degree Fahrenheit heat.
Space enthusiasts can submit their names to go along for the ride. NASA is accepting passengers until April 27 and then will load their names onto a memory card that will go onto the probe.
It’s not the first time NASA has invited the public along for a spacecraft ride. Most recently, the space agency has accepted names to be carried on microchips on its InSight lander, which is headed for Mars later this year.
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