NASA names next solar mission after pioneer solar scientist Eugene Parker

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NASA has named its next solar mission, which will fly closer to the Sun than any previous mission, after pioneer solar scientist Eugene Parker, who in the 1950s predicted the existence of the solar wind.

The new moniker honors pioneering University of Chicago astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who predicted the existence of the solar wind — the stream of charged particles flowing constantly from the sun — back in 1958. [Solar Quiz: How Well Do You Know Our Sun?]

NASA has named about 20 space missions after people; the Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps the most famous example. But the 89-year-old Parker is the first researcher to be celebrated in this manner while still alive, agency officials said.

Parker deserves it, for sure, and it is really nice to honor him while he is still alive to appreciate it.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch at the end of July.



  • Gealon

    BSJ, Yes, I wrote up a rather detailed analysis of my concerns a while back, I think the last time Rob posted a Stratolaunch update. It all boils down to that single wing joining the two halves of the plane together. Any number of malfunctions or atmospheric conditions could cause the aircraft to sheer apart, mainly as I see it, by one fuselage pitching up and the other down and the wing just twisting to pieces. A joined tail like on the P-38 would help eliminate this instability. But it appears that the beast’s designers appear to be more focused on making the plane look like the White Knight carrier for Spaceship 1, rather then building a safe, stable aircraft.

  • Gealon

    To Rob, I appear to have posted the above in the wrong topic. Would you be kind enough to remove the reply or move it and I’ll post it again in the Stratolaunch topic if my reply can’t be moved.

  • Gealon: I can’t move your comment easily. Cut and paste into a new comment in the right thread.

    By the way, no one refers to me as “Rob” except very close relatives. Have we met? :)

  • Gealon

    We unfortunately have not Mr. Zimmerman.

    Apologies for the trouble, I posted the comment in the correct topic.

  • Dick Eagleson

    I feel as though I should jump in here and prevent this comment thread from becoming completely off-topic.

    I agree that honoring the living is superior to honoring the dead, but that the latter is better than not honoring them at all. Happily, Dr. Parker is around to enjoy this latest plaudit.

  • LocalFluff

    Heliophysics is so to speak always put in the shadow. I suppose it is hard to sell because the Sun is such an absurd object. Rocks are easier to relate to.

    I think it’s good to name spacecrafts after people who are still living. As long as it is not politically related, we don’t want to see the cult of personality of socialist countries. If for no other reason, we are seriously running out of historical astronomers! And so much progress has been done in the recent decades. Good theories must be rewarded quickly, before they are disproven by better theories.

    The Nobel Prize committee is very particular with the prize winner having to be alive. But there was some mayor in Texas who got elected although he was dead. He is said to have run the worst campaign ever except for HRC, and still he won. And in France you can get married after your death! Recently happened to a gay policeman who was murdered by muslims. (Doesn’t one have to say “I do”?)

  • Edward

    A few decades ago, I read an article in one of my father’s old science fiction magazines (perhaps Amazing Stories or Analog) that, in the mid 1950s, described a solar probe similar to the Parker Solar Probe. The author proposed a mirror finish on the sun-side to reflect the sun’s heat and to shade the rest of the probe, a conical shape that matched the probe’s distance from the sun so that the conical sides were not lit by the edges of the sun (the limb), thermal radiators on the conical sides to cool the probe, and instruments that peeked out from behind the sun-side shade.

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