NASA Mourns Passing of Visionary Heliophysicist Eugene Parker

Dr. Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning of Aug. 12, 2018. NASA Director of Heliophysics Dr. Nicky Fox stands behind him. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun and will travel closer to our star than any spacecraft before. (Credits: NASA/Glenn Benson)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Dr. Eugene N. Parker, visionary of heliophysics and namesake of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, has passed away. He was 94.

As a young professor at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s, Parker developed a mathematical theory that predicted the solar wind, the constant outflow of solar material from the Sun. Throughout his career, Parker revolutionized the field time and again, advancing ideas that addressed the fundamental questions about the workings of our Sun and stars throughout the universe.

“We were saddened to learn the news that one of the great scientific minds and leaders of our time has passed,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Dr. Eugene Parker’s contributions to science and to understanding how our universe works touches so much of what we do here at NASA. Dr. Parker’s legacy will live on through the many active and future NASA missions that build upon his work.”

“The field of heliophysics exists in large part because of Dr. Eugene Parker,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. “Honoring his work by giving Parker Solar Probe his name is one of the proudest accomplishments of my career. My work, my passion for science, and my drive to keep exploring is strongly influenced by this great man. Parker Solar Probe ‘touching the Sun,’ is a fitting accomplishment for his namesake mission.”

In 2018, Parker became the first person to witness the launch of a spacecraft bearing his name. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe continues its mission today in pursuit of the pioneering questions Parker first envisaged more than a half century ago.

“Anyone who knew Dr. Parker, knew that he was a visionary,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “I was honored to stand with him at the launch of Parker Solar Probe and have loved getting to share with him all the exciting science results, seeing his face light up with every new image and data plot I showed him. I will sincerely miss his excitement and love for Parker Solar Probe. Even though Dr. Parker is no longer with us, his discoveries and legacy will live forever.”

Learn more about Parker Solar Probe and its mission at:

https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/parker-solar-probe

Institute of Space Commerce Announces Its Awardees for Space Commerce Events and Film 2021

AUSTIN, Texas, January 31, 2022 (Institute of Space Commerce PR) — In the science fiction movie category, the Institute of Space Commerce (ISC) has the pleasure to announce “Don’t Look Up” as the best space motion picture entertainment of 2021.

“Dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program, and if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it will serve us right.” quoted Larry Niven, renowned SciFi author and Patron of the Institute of Space Commerce.

“Don’t Look Up” showed us just that. Its exaggerated portrayal of human selfishness and ignorance against

(more…)

NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

(more…)

NASA Enters the Solar Atmosphere for the First Time, Bringing New Discoveries

Parker Solar Probe near the sun. (Credit: NASA)

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — For the first time in history, a spacecraft has touched the Sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has now flown through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. 

The new milestone marks one major step for Parker Solar Probe and one giant leap for solar science. Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the solar system. 

(more…)

NRL/NASA Experiment Launched to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

The UltraViolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder undergoes inspection after the successful completion of its thermal vacuum test at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The front, gold-colored, aperture shows the multiple external occulters that will block direct light from the solar disk. The occultation allows the faint solar corona to be observed at Lyman-alpha wavelengths. The UVSC instrument sits on a transport cart, which is not part of the flight package. (Credit: U.S. Navy)

By Paul Cage
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON  –  A joint-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/NASA experiment prepares to investigate the origins of Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) that could affect Navy satellites and harm personnel during future crewed missions to the moon and beyond.

Researchers will use a new instrument, the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder (UVSC Pathfinder) to try to understand the origins of these particles, how they’re generated close into the sun to provide accurate space weather forecasting when these events happen.

(more…)

Final RS-68A Engine for Delta IV Heavy Completes Hot-fire Acceptance Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-68A rocket engine successfully completed its final acceptance test April 12, 2021, on the B-1 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The RS-68A powers the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket to send critical spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: NASA Stennis)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Today (April 12), the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-68A, completed its final hot-fire acceptance test for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the B-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

(more…)

Parker Solar Probe Offers Stunning View of Venus

When flying past Venus in July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, short for Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow — light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside. The prominent dark feature in the center of the image is Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. Bright streaks in WISPR, such as the ones seen here, are typically caused by a combination of charged particles — called cosmic rays — sunlight reflected by grains of space dust, and particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after impact with those dust grains. The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here. The dark spot appearing on the lower portion of Venus is an artifact from the WISPR instrument. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher)

By Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

LAUREL, Md. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

Though Parker Solar Probe’s focus is the Sun, Venus plays a critical role in the mission: The spacecraft whips by Venus a total of seven times over the course of its seven-year mission, using the planet’s gravity to bend the spacecraft’s orbit. These Venus gravity assists allow Parker Solar Probe to fly closer and closer to the Sun on its mission to study the dynamics of the solar wind close to its source.

(more…)

How to Safely Stare at the Sun: SOHO, SDO and GOES-R Instruments

The sun over the years. (Credit: SOHO/NASA/ESA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — As an agency, NOAA’s science isn’t just limited to Earth and its atmosphere. NOAA’s reach goes from the surface of the Sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them. So, what sort of instruments help scientists detect what’s going on in the Sun in the first place?

(more…)

Comet NEOWISE and the International Space Station

Comet NEOWISE and the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The International Space Station, with a crew of five onboard, is seen in this 10 second exposure above comet NEOWISE, Saturday, July 18, 2020 from Keys Gap, W.Va. The comet was discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, on March 27.

Since then, the comet — called comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and nicknamed comet NEOWISE — has been spotted by several NASA spacecraft, including Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Onboard the International Space Station are Expedition 63 NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Spies Newly-Discovered Comet NEOWISE

An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on board NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. The Sun is out of frame to the left. The faint grid pattern near the center of the image is an artifact of the way the image is created. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)

by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was at the right place at the right time to capture a unique view of comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020. Parker Solar Probe’s position in space gave the spacecraft an unmatched view of the comet’s twin tails when it was particularly active just after its closest approach to the Sun, called perihelion.

(more…)

Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

(more…)

First NASA Parker Solar Probe Results Reveal Surprising Details About Our Sun

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Sun is revealing itself in dramatic detail and shedding light on how other stars may form and behave throughout the universe – all thanks to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft is enduring scorching temperatures to gather data, which are being shared for the first time in four new papers that illuminate previously unknown and only-theorized characteristics of our volatile celestial neighbor.

(more…)

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

(more…)











UC Berkeley Scientists Scramble to Build Payload for 2021 Moon Landing

Commercial landers like this will carry science and technology payloads, including one built by UC Berkeley, to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (Credit: NASA)

Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley Media Relations

Scavenging spare parts and grabbing off-the-shelf hardware, University of California, Berkeley, space scientists are in a sprint to build scientific instruments that will land on the moon in a mere two years.

(more…)











NIAC Phase II Award: Solar Surfing

Solar surfing (Credit: Doug Willard)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Solar Surfing
Doug Willard
NASA Kennedy Space Center

In 2018 the Parker Solar Probe launched, planning to approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii of its surface. This is seven times closer than any previous mission, allowing first-time particle, radiation, and magnetic field measurements of the Sun’s corona. The Parker Solar Probe utilizes a solar shield comprising a lightly-coated carbon composite layer on top of four inches of carbon foam. However, the temperature limits of the shield restrict the closest approach distance.

(more…)