Parker Solar Probe will transport more than a million names to the sun

June 7, 2018
Parker Solar Probe

Scientists install the plaque and the names onto the exterior of the spacecraft (left). (Image: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory)

When the Parker Solar Probe lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer on its historic journey to the sun, it will carry with it the names of more than a million people.

Inscribed on a memory card the size of a fingernail, the names—1,137,202 in total—were submitted by members of the public in March. The memory card was mounted on the spacecraft on a plaque bearing a dedication to Eugene Parker, the mission’s namesake and the heliophysicist who first theorized the existence of solar wind. Photos of Parker and a copy of his groundbreaking 1958 paper were also saved to the memory card.

“Parker Solar Probe is going to revolutionize our understanding of the sun, the only star we can study up close,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe. “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.”

Built by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and featuring technology developed at the university’s Whiting School of Engineering, the Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to “touch” a star. The probe will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars.

Excerpted from The Hub >>

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