Monday December 16, 2019
Home Lead Story NASA Readies ...

NASA Readies Probe to Touch the Sun With ‘Cutting-Edge Heat Shield’

The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft, NASA said

0
//
NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

Ahead of its August launch, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — the mission aiming to get closest to the Sun than ever by any human-made object — has got its “revolutionary” heat shield permanently attached to the spacecraft, the US space agency said.

The probe’s heat shield — called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS — was reinstalled on the spacecraft on June 27, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The reinstallation of the heat shield — which was briefly attached to the spacecraft during testing in the autumn of 2017 — marks the first time in months that Parker Solar Probe has been fully integrated.

A mission 60 years in the making, Parker Solar Probe will make a historic journey to the Sun’s corona, a region of the solar atmosphere.

With the help of its heat shield, the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within four million miles of the Sun’s fiercely hot surface, where it will collect data about the inner workings of the corona.

NASA-heat-shield
Representational image. (IANS)

The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft, NASA said.

At Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core.

Also Read: NASA to Soon Start Testing ‘quiet’ Supersonic Flights over Texas

The Sun-facing side of the heat shield is also sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun’s energy away from the spacecraft as possible.

Because Parker Solar Probe travels so fast — 69,2018 km per hour at its closest approach to the Sun, fast enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, in about one second — the shield and spacecraft have to be light to achieve the needed orbit.

The heat shield itself weighs only about 72.5 kg, NASA said. (IANS)

Next Story

Scientists Create Map of Wind Circulation in the Upper Atmosphere of Mars

Scientists map winds in Mars' upper atmosphere for first time

0
Mars
The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate. (Representational image). Pixabay

Using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, researchers have created the first-ever map of wind circulation in the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate, giving them a more accurate picture of its ancient past and its ongoing evolution.

“The observed global circulation provides critical inputs needed to constrain global atmospheric models,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“These are the same models that are used to extrapolate the state of the Martian climate into the distant past,” added Benna in the first paper published in the journal Science.

MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission) celebrated the five-year anniversary of its entrance into orbit around Mars on September 21.

Mission Mars
The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations. (Representational image). Pixabay

The primary scientific goal of the mission is to study what is left of Mars’ atmosphere to determine how, in the distant past, an ocean-covered and potentially habitable Mars became the dry and desolate place it is today.

“The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations, but other times can be quite different,” said Kali Roeten of University of Michigan.

“These winds can also be highly variable on the timescale of hours, yet in other cases, are consistent throughout the observation period, said Roeten in the second paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

Upper atmospheric winds on Earth have already been mapped in detail.

Winds drive a series of processes in the atmosphere that can affect the propagation of radio waves, which are crucial for communications purposes for those on the surface, and the prediction of paths satellites will take in their orbit around Earth.

Mapping Martian winds, therefore, is a crucial step towards understanding characteristics of extraterrestrial atmospheres beyond what we know about processes on Earth.

Also Read- Google Assistant Rolls out Interpreter Mode for Smartphones

The upper atmospheric winds on both Earth and Mars are in the planets’ respective thermospheres, which are areas where temperature increases with height.

This discovery was the first detection of topography-induced gravity wave ripples in the thermosphere of any planet, even Earth. (IANS)