All space endeavors are risky and all of them are bold, that we have to agree with, but NASA’s most recent project might be one of the boldest – they want to orbit around the sun’s outer atmosphere.
Let me make something clear: the sun’s corona is an actual plasma hellfire landscape that burns at several million degrees Celsius.
Now that we got that out of the way, NASA has built the Parker Solar Probe specifically to go around the sun about two dozen times over the next seven years. It will cover around 6 million kilometers of the sun’s surface which means it will come seven times as close to the star than any other previous spacecraft has ever been.
The Parker Probe is the size of a small car and it will carry instruments to measure electric and magnetic fields among others and will also take 3D images.
Of course, even at the safe distance the Parker Solar Probe will orbit, the sunlight will heat the surface of the spacecraft up to about 1370°C. In order to protect Parker from that amount of heat and radiation, it has been armored with a heat shield that is composed out of a layer of carbon foam enclosed between panes of some other carbon based material very similar to graphite epoxy.
The heat shield will face the star at all times as Parker goes around the sun and thus keep the instruments safe.
The Parker probe is expected to gather data about the corona and about solar wind and that data will help the scientists understand more about the inner workings of the sun’s atmosphere. This data would also improve space weather forecasts which affect not only astronauts but also spacecraft and ground technology.