The European Space Agency this week is expected to begin formal and final preparations to launch the Solar Orbiter space probe, which will be launched toward the sun in about five years, orbiting within the orbit of Mercury. It’ll be the closest trip to the sun by any Earth-launched space probe and is expected to provide vast amounts of new data.
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Hopefully, though, in the next five years, we’ll know a lot more. That’s when the Solar Orbiter is set to launch. A project of the European Space Agency, the Solar Orbiter will get closer to the sun than any satellite to date. The journey to the sun will take years, even once the probe is built and launched.
“There are so many gaps in our knowledge of the sun. We’ve mapped practically every square mile of the planet Mars, we know more about Mars than the surface of the Earth in fact. But the sun constantly changes. It’s not made out of a solid surface at all. It’s made out of plasma, roughly 75 percent hydrogen and 25 percent helium. That’s why this probe is so important — because it will travel inside the orbit of Mercury, where no other space probe has gone before.”
– Michio Kaku