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Humanity’s First Mission to Touch the Sun

NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds. This probe will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.

The primary science goals for the mission are to trace the flow of energy and understand the heating of the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind. Learn more >>

  • Launch Window: August 4 – Aug.  19, 2018
  • Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

To get there, Parker Solar Probe will take an innovative route – using Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. Learn more >>

Watch Launch Video
Programming Resources

Sun-Earth Connections

From there to here… Billions of tons of solar material are hurled from the sun at millions of miles an hour. When the material reaches Earth it interacts with our protective magnetic field.

Earth’s Magnetosphere
Dangerous electron and protons are not able to penetrate down to Earth’s surface but are forced to move around it by the magnetic field. Earth responds to the changing sun – this response is known as Space Weather.

Watch Video About Earth’s Magnetosphere

The Parker Solar Probe Launch: How Will Your Library Be Involved?

In the summer of 2018, NASA will launch the Parker Solar Probe. This small, car-sized spacecraft will travel into the Sun’s atmosphere, within four million miles of our star’s surface. Join Space Science Institute’s Brooks Mitchell and Dr. Paul Dusenbery to learn all about NASA’s first mission to “touch” the Sun and ways that your library can be involved.

Spacecraft: Extreme Engineering

The spacecraft will come as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) to the Sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius).

Learn More About the Spacecraft

Programming Resources

Below we have assembled a collection of resources that include vetted STEM activities, printable materials (PDF format), renderings/images and videos/animations that your library can utilize for your Solar Parker Probe programming. Also, be sure to check out this recent blog post for useful NASA sound files.

STEM Activity Clearinghouse Logo


Scale Model: Sun-Earth
Sun Cookies
Sorting Games
Neato-Magneto Planets
Solar Energy


Mission Fact Sheet
Solar Pizza
Mission Decal
Mission Banner
Mission Logo


Artist’s Concept 1
Artist’s Concept 2
Photo #1
Photo #2
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Mission Overview
Women on a Mission
Mission Trajectory
Venus Flyby
More Animations

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