The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard is seen shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

In the early morning hours of August 12th a Delta IV Heavy Rockets three engines roared to life lifting the Parker Solar Probe into the night sky and started its journey on a mission to study the sun.

Parker Solar Probe has been setting records throughout its mission, from fastest spacecraft to closest approach to the sun. Innovative technologies were developed to make sure the spacecraft would survive its journey, from a protective heat shield on the front to shield the instruments from the intense heat

In the four short years since the mission started, we mark the 1/2 mission lifetime.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is speeding toward its 13th science-gathering solar encounter, heading toward a close approach of the Sun on September 6th that will take it to within about 6 million miles (10.4 million kilometers, or 14.97 solar radii) of the solar surface.

That matches the record-distance of its last closest approach (called perihelion) on April 29; at the same time, the probe will also equal its record-setting flyby speed of 330,000 miles per hour (532,000 kilometers per hour). And, it’s only 2.6 million miles from the ultimate closest approach of 3.8 million miles from the Sun’s surface, which Parker Solar Probe will reach will reach in December 2024.

In December 2021, Parker Solar Probe recorded never before seen images of Venus as it was doing one of its gravity assist flybys of Venus to increase its speed and proximity on its primary mission to study the sun.

Learn more about the Parker Solar Probe Mission