NASA Solar Probe gets closer to the Sun; successfully completes first Venus flyby

Washington: On Wednesday, Parker Solar Probe successfully completed its flyby of Venus at a distance of about 1,500 miles during the first Venus gravity assist of the mission. These gravity assists will help the spacecraft tighten its orbit closer and closer to the Sun over the course of the mission.

Detailed data from the flyby will be assessed over the next few days. This data allows the flight operations team to prepare for the remaining six Venus gravity assists which will occur over the course of the seven-year mission.

The spacecraft therefore remains on course for its first close encounter with the sun, which is scheduled to take place from Oct. 31 through Nov. 11. During this 12-day stretch, the Parker Solar Probe will gather a wealth of data about the sun’s structure, composition and activity.

The spacecraft, which launched on Aug. 12, has many more such encounters on tap — a total of 24 over the next seven years. And there will be six more Venus flybys as well, which will serve to shrink the Parker Solar Probe’s orbit, allowing it to get closer and closer to Earth’s star over time.

During the final planned solar close approach in 2025, for example, the spacecraft will zoom within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million km) of the sun’s surface. For perspective, the current proximity record —which Parker will break late this month, by the way — is 27 million miles (43 million km), set by the German-American Helios 2 mission in 1976.

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