Solar Probe Plus: A NASA Mission to Touch the Sun

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Nicola Justine Fox, Johns Hopkins Univ Applied Phy, Laurel, MD, United States, Marco M C Velli, Calif Inst of Tech-JPL, Pasadena, CA, United States, Justin Christophe Kasper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, David J McComas, Southwest Research Institute San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, United States, Russell Howard, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, United States, Stuart D Bale, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States and Robert B Decker, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, United States
Solar Probe Plus (SPP), currently in Phase C, will be the first mission to fly into the low solar corona, revealing how the corona is heated and the solar wind and energetic particles are accelerated, solving fundamental mysteries that have been top priority science goals since such a mission was first proposed in 1958. The scale and concept of such a mission has been revised at intervals since that time, yet the core has always been a close encounter with the Sun. The primary science goal of the Solar Probe Plus mission is to determine the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s coronal magnetic field, understand how the solar corona and wind are heated and accelerated, and determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles. The SPP mission will achieve this by identifying and quantifying the basic plasma physical processes at the heart of the Heliosphere. SPP uses an innovative mission design, significant technology development and a risk-reducing engineering development to meet the SPP science objectives: 1) Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind; 2) Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind; and 3) Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles. In this presentation, we present Solar Probe Plus and examine how the mission will address the science questions that have remained unanswered for over 5 decades.