With Help From CU, NASA Hopes to Get Closer to the Sun

September 2010

NASA has plans to build the fastest space vehicle ever, one that will travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per second. The probe's subject of study is the center of the Solar System—the Sun—and NASA has awarded a team from the University of Colorado at Boulder $6.7 million to design, develop, and test instruments for the Solar Probe Plus, which is meant to withstand the vacuum of space at such speeds, reports the Denver Business Journal.

There are many hopes for what the probe will study. CU's role in the "Fields Experiment," led by the University of California at Berkeley, will measure electric and magnetic fields, as well as radio emissions, and show waves moving through the Sun's atmospheric plasma, according to a CU news release.

"This is what we call forefront science: Nobody has ever been this close to the Sun before, and we hope it will eventually help us to understand how the universe works, since the Sun is one of many trillions of stars in the universe and the only one that we can get to from Earth," explains Robert Ergun of CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "As NASA puts it, this is our first visit to a star."