Our daily hum of activities revolves around the sun, the roiling ball of gas at the center of our solar system. But yet many puzzles remain about this fiery orb and its critical effects in our planetary neighborhood. So, this summer, the Parker Solar Probe will travel within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing brutal conditions in search of answers to these burning questions. And now, NASA is inviting you—or rather your name—to go along for the ride.
According to a press release, the public can submit their names online to be placed on a microchip that will travel on board the Parker Solar Probe in its mission to the sun. Called "Hot Ticket," the program is accepting submissions until April 27. As Mike Wehner of BGR reports, those who sign up will be asked to confirm via email and then receive a digital ticket to join the mission.
The probe will take NASA—and the public—closer to the sun than ever before.
The spacecraft is the size of a small car, and to withstand the scorching conditions, it will be protected by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield that can tolerate temperatures around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with names of people from around the world, it will carry instruments to study the sun's magnetic fields, atmosphere, plasma and energetic particles.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, says in the statement. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
As Elana Glowatz reports for Newsweek, scientists hope to learn about how heat and energy move through the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, called the corona, and to explain how the solar wind accelerates. These changing conditions, NASA explains, can spread out into the solar system and affect Earth.
The spacecraft will be traveling at about 430,000 mph—about as fast as it would take to travel from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo in under a minute, NASA says—as it nears its closest range to the sun.
As part of its campaign, NASA released a video featuring William Shatner inviting people on the historic mission.
This isn’t the first time NASA has invited the public to join them on a mission, Glowatz writes. In October, the agency began asking the public to add their names to a list that will ride aboard the InSight lander, which will head to Mars later this year. NASA also sent nearly 1.4 million names to space in 2014 on Orion's first test flight, Mental Floss reported last year.
The mission will make multiple loops around the sun before wrapping up in 2025, but depending on how the probe fares, it could be extended, Wehner reports.
That said, will you join the mission?