Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Parker Solar Probe

"As strange as it may sound, it's much more difficult to reach the sun than it is to leave the solar system altogether":
“I’m always amused when someone says, ‘Shoot X or so-and-so into the sun,’” says Rand Simberg, a space consultant and an engineer. “Because they have no idea how hard that is to do.”

The reason has to do with orbital mechanics, the study of how natural forces influence the motions of rockets, satellites, and other space-bound technology. Falling into the sun might seem effortless since the star’s gravity is always tugging at everything in the solar system, including Earth. But Earth—along with all the other planets and their moons—is also orbiting the sun at great speed, which prevents it from succumbing to the sun’s pull.

This arrangement is great if you’d like to avoid falling into the sun yourself, but it’s rather inconvenient if you want to launch something there.