It's been a busy week for people who control the Solar Parker Probe that touches the Sun at NASA. After breaking many records last week because of the distance from the Sun and the speed of its journey, the investigation began this week by making the first of two dozen flies planned from the star.
Now, after waiting patiently for the probe to complete its operations and collect whatever data it can, NASA reports that the probe called home to let the engineers know that it was fine. This is the first major test for the probe and its own set of management safety features, and it looks like everything is functioning properly.
"Parker Solar Probe is designed to protect itself and its valuable content during this close approach, without our control on Earth – and now we know it works," said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA in a statement. "Parker is the culmination of six decades of scientific progress. Now, we have realized the first visit near humans to our star, which will have implications not only on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe. "
NASA knows what kind of intense environment the probe must handle when driving around the Sun, and has designed it to be able to withstand extraordinary temperatures. The spacecraft is equipped with a thick heat shield that protects the back of the loaded instrument, but can only do its job if directed in the right direction. To ensure the shield stays at the correct angle, a series of sensors placed around the edge of the probe automatically keep it in the correct orientation.
For the first operand, NASA said that the plane had a temperature of around 820 degrees Fahrenheit. That might sound crazy, but it's nothing compared to the temperature of 2,500 degrees that will be faced when it makes the star's closest jump for the next half decade or so. The temperature was blocked by a heat shield, while the rest of the probe remained in the "mid 80's F," according to NASA.