NASA has announced that its Parker Solar Probe is alive and well after skimming the Sun at just 15 million miles from the surface.
According to scientists, this is far closer than any spacecraft has ever gone. The previous record was set by Helios B in 1976, a record that was broken by the Parker Solar Probe on 29 October.
This manoeuvre, NASA said, has exposed the spacecraft to intense heat and solar radiation in a complex solar wind environment.
However, mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the craft at on Wednesday, with a status 'A' indication light. This is apparently the best of all four possible status signals, meaning that Parker Solar Probe is "operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data".
NASA said if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.
"The Parker Solar Probe was designed to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from us on Earth, and now we know it succeeded," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
"Parker is the culmination of six decades of scientific progress. Now, we have realised humanity's first close visit to our star, which will have implications not just here on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe."
According to NASA, members of the Parker Solar Probe mission team celebrated after hearing the spacecraft was operating in good health again following its first perihelion (its closest approach).
"[The] Parker Solar Probe reached a top speed of 213,200 miles per hour, setting a new record for spacecraft speed," NASA said. "Along with new records for the closest approach to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will repeatedly break its own speed record as its orbit draws closer to the star and the spacecraft travels faster and faster at perihelion."
The spacecraft will now continue collecting science data through the end of the solar encounter phase on 11 November, but it will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the science data begins downlinking to Earth.
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