NASA planning mission to visit the sun

Space agency hopes to send a spacecraft into the solar atmosphere by 2018.

Solar probe
An artist's representation of the proposed solar probe. NASA

We know it's hot up there, but NASA wants to know a bit more about the sun and its atmosphere. And so sometime before 2018, the agency intends to send a spacecraft into the solar atmosphere.

This will mark the first time that a spacecraft from Earth will actually visit a star.

The decision to chart a mission to the sun also realizes a dream that astronomers almost realized a half century ago, when the National Academy of Science's "Simpson Committee" in 1958 recommended a probe to investigate. Several studies were subsequently carried out to test the feasibility of the project, but nothing came of them.

Since NASA has never sent any vehicle this close to Earth's sun, the craft will have to be outfitted with a special shield designed to withstand radiation and temperatures exceeding 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit. A spokesman for NASA said scientists will depend on simulations to guarantee that the probe can cope with that sort of intense heat.

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