Washington, May 23 (IANS): When NASA’s s Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to “touch” a star, launches on July 31, it will carry more than scientific instruments on this historic journey — it will also hold more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to go to the Sun, NASA has said.
Back in March, NASA invited people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard its historic Parker Solar Probe. Submissions were accepted till April 27.
NASA this week revealed that a total of 1,137,202 names were submitted and confirmed over the seven-and-a-half-week period.
A memory card containing the names was installed on the spacecraft on May 18, the US space agency said.
The card was mounted on a plaque bearing a dedication to and a quote from the mission’s namesake, heliophysicist Eugene Parker, who first theorised the existence of the solar wind.
Throughout its seven-year mission, the spacecraft will swoop through the Sun’s atmosphere 24 times, getting closer to our star than any spacecraft has gone before.
“Parker Solar Probe is going to revolutionise our understanding of the Sun, the only star we can study up close,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist for Parker Solar Probe at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.
“It’s fitting that as the mission undertakes one of the most extreme journeys of exploration ever tackled by a human-made object, the spacecraft will also carry along the names of so many people who are cheering it on its way,” she added.
This memory card also carries photos of Parker and a copy of his groundbreaking 1958 scientific paper.
Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars — including our Sun — give off material.
He called this cascade of energy and particles the solar wind, a constant outflow of material from the Sun that we now know shapes everything from the habitability of worlds to our solar system’s interaction with the rest of the galaxy.
Parker Solar Probe will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars.
The resulting data may also improve forecasts of major eruptions on the Sun and subsequent space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space, NASA said.