John Hopkins plans mission to the sun

May 3, 2008 at 12:15 AM
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BALTIMORE, May 3 (UPI) -- Maryland's Johns Hopkins University said it is developing a spacecraft designed to go closer to the sun than any other probe has gone.

The university's Applied Physics Laboratory was asked by NASA to develop the Solar Probe mission, which will study the streams of charged particles the sun hurls into space, the space agency said Friday in a release.

"The Solar Probe will be designed to travel past the sun at 125 miles per second, protected by a carbon-composite heat shield that must withstand up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and survive blasts of radiation and energized dust at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft," NASA said.

The spacecraft is on a schedule to launch in 2015.

"Solar Probe is a true mission of exploration," APL project scientist Robert Decker said. "For example, the spacecraft will go close enough to the sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest energy solar particles. And, as with all missions of discovery, Solar Probe is likely to raise more questions than it answers."

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