- Fiza Pirani The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"The first-ever spacecraft to the sun, NASA's Parker Solar Probe, will launch this year on a course to orbit through the heat of our star's corona, where temperatures are greater than 1 million degrees," “Star Trek” actor William Shatner said in a new NASA video. "The spacecraft will also carry my name to the sun, and your name, and the names of everyone who wants to join this voyage of extreme exploration."
Shatner, who portrayed Capt. James Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series, is NASA's pitchman for the send-your-name-to-the-sun campaign.
According to NASA, the probe will use the gravity of Venus during seven flybys over approximately seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun.
It’ll journey more than seven times closer to the sun than any spacecraft has come before − as close as 3.9 million miles from the star’s surface− to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona.
Temperatures will reach 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,300 degrees Celsius), as the spacecraft zips in and out of this atmospheric hot zone. Until now, the materials for such a grueling journey were unavailable.
The probe aims to “revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind,” information scientists have been searching for for more than 60 years.
“It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth's space environment that affect life and technology on Earth,” NASA states on its website.
The Parker Solar Probe, with its cutting-edge thermal engineering advances, “will carry four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.”
The probe is set to launch between July 31 and Aug. 19, 2018, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.