At 11:03 pm on February 9, the Solar Orbiter was launched from the Atlas Ⅴ to study the sun’s poles. Launched by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), the Solar Orbiter will make its first close pass to the Sun in two years on its mission to collect information on solar science and make manned moon missions safer.
The mission will observe the poles of the sun, rather than its equator, and will reach the sun with some help from the gravitational field of Venus. The Solar Orbiter is the size of a large van and protected from the sun’s heat by a titanium shield. It has 10 instruments aboard to help it capture data on the Sun’s magnetic field, atmosphere, flares and more.
More knowledge about the sun’s poles is needed because they flip every 11 years. This switch affects satellites and power stations and could place unprotected astronauts in danger. As NASA expands its Artemis program missions to the Moon, the data from the Solar Orbiter will be a critical solution for ensuring astronaut safety and knowing more about our planet’s chief energy source.