On October 29, 2018, a mere 78 days after launch, the Parker Solar Probe has broken the record for closest man made object to the sun. The German-American Helios 2 Spacecraft, which launched in April 1976, held the previous record of 26.55 miles from the Sun’s surface. Parker will continue to break its own record until its final close approach at 3.83 million miles away around 2024.
Using NASA’s Deep Space Network, the Parker Solar Probe team has been able to measure the craft’s speed and position with great precision. Parker receives a signal sent from the DSN, which proceeds to restransmit it back to the DSN, allowing for the team to calculate and determine the spacecraft’s speed and position.
October 31 marked Parker’s first solar encounter as it approaches its first perihelion (closest point to the sun) around November 5, 2018. The craft’s exposure to intense heat and radiation will provide unprecedented research and observation of the Sun and its corona, allowing for answers to some decades long mysteries, and furthering mankind’s understanding of that giant nuclear fusion reactor in the sky.