Nasa spacecraft breaks record for coming closest to Sun

The view from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument of Earth in a handout  made available by Nasa on Oct 29, 2018.
The view from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument of Earth in a handout made available by Nasa on Oct 29, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAMPA (AFP) - Nasa's Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has set a new record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sun, the US space agency announced Monday (Oct 29).

"The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles (42.73 million kilometres) from the Sun's surface on Oct 29, 2018, at about 1:04 pm EDT (1704 GMT)," said a Nasa statement.

"The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976." The US$1.5 billion (S$2.08 billion) unmanned spacecraft launched in August, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms.

Its goal is make a series of 24 flybys past our scorching star.

Another record is in sight for the Parker Solar Probe.

The spaceship is "expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun on Oct 29 at about 10:54 pm EDT (Tuesday 0254 GMT)," Nasa said.

"The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles (246,960 kilometres) per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976." Parker's first close encounter with the Sun is scheduled for Oct 31.

Its final close approach - coming just 3.83 million miles from the Sun's surface - is expected in 2024, Nasa said.