NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has now travelled closer to our solar system’s star than any before it. Yet, that was not the only record it would set over a 24-hour period. Just hours later, it broke another record travelling faster than any spacecraft in history.
Launched in August, the Parker Solar Probe was built to break records. The heavily shielded probe was designed to be the first to fly into the Sun’s corona (an area of plasma that surrounds all stars). During 7 close flybys of the Sun, the probe will measure electromagnetic levels and study solar winds.
After over 70 days in space, the Parker Solar Probe approached closer to the Sun than any man-made object has before. In an official statement published to the NASA website, mission personnel confirmed that the probe surpassed the current record of 42.72 million kilometers (26.55 million miles) at 17:04 UTC (13:04 EDT) on October 29.
“It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.”
Just hours after this historic achievement, the probe was back to breaking records. At 02:54 UTC on October 30 (10:54 EDT on October 29), the Parker Solar Probe hit a record-breaking top speed of 248,226 kph (154,241 mph). This staggering speed was achieved using the gravitational force of Venus. The probe is expected to smash the record several times over during its 7-year primary mission.
The Parker Solar Probe is expected to make 7 near passes of the Sun over the next 7 years. Each flyby will approach incrementally closer. The first will approach within 24.8 million kilometres and the last within just 6.9 million kilometres.