Lift off! Historic probe hurtles towards Sun

Feeling hot, hot, hot: Some parts of the Sun can reach up to three million degrees! © NASA

Is NASA’s latest mission a waste of money? America’s space agency has sent a probe into space to investigate our nearest star. Scientists say that the Parker Probe will “touch the Sun”.

What’s happening

Scientists at NASA have launched a new mission into space called the Parker Solar Probe. Soon it will become the fastest man-made object in history, travelling at an amazing 430,000 miles per hour. Its destination? The Sun.

Find out more

We see the Sun in the sky every day, but there is a lot that scientists do not know about it. They are particularly intrigued by powerful blasts of energy called solar flares.

NASA’s probe will collect data by orbiting the Sun for seven years and sending information back to Earth. It will get closer to the Sun than any machine has been before. To stop it from burning to a crisp, it has been fitted with a special shield.

In total, the mission will cost NASA $1.5 billion (£1.17 billion). Is it a waste of money?

Some say…

It is a huge waste of money! For $1.5 billion, the US could feed around eight million hungry people for an entire year. In a world where millions of children still go without regular meals, it is wrong to spend money on exploring space.

Others think…

It is not a waste of money. If a solar flare hit the Earth, it could damage a lot of technology and perhaps cause blackouts. Yet even the world’s best scientists do not know how to predict them. It is worth spending money to find out.

You Decide

  1. Is it important for scientists to learn more about the Sun?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are in charge of a country. You have £1 billion to spend. As a class, choose three things you would spend it on.

Some People Say...

“Curiosity is the essence of human existence.”

Gene Cernan, astronaut

What do you think?

Word Watch

NASA
America’s space agency. NASA is short for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Probe
A spacecraft that collects scientific information. It does not have astronauts on board.
Intrigued
Interested or curious about.
Orbiting
Repeatedly circling something. For example, the Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days.
Blackouts
Loss of lighting and electricity.

Subjects

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