The center of the solar system is a tricky destination, but NASA is going.
In a very short time, we human beings have seeded our corner of the universe with all kinds of signs of our existence. We have flung hundreds of satellites into the sky, cloaking the Earth in technology. We sent spacecraft to swing by planets and moons, to orbit them, to roam their surfaces. A few years ago, we reached the invisible line between the end of our solar system and the beginning of everything else, and then pierced it, hurtling into the darkness beyond.
This last achievement, humanity’s escape from the solar system, was certainly astonishing, a testament to human ingenuity and engineering. But it was much easier than what we’re trying to do next.
The Parker Solar Probe, a NASA mission, will blast off from the Florida coast in the early-morning hours of Saturday. Next month, the spacecraft will reach Venus, its sidekick on a long journey. Parker will swing past the planet seven times, slowing down with each pass. Eventually the probe will end its rendezvous with Venus and move into a closer orbit around the sun, coming within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface to graze its edge. It will be more than seven times closer than any probe has flown before.