The greatest missions to the sun of all time

Parker Solar Probe (2018-present)

Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben/NASA

Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018 to get closer to the sun than ever before. It will "touch" material from the corona, zooming in as close as 3.8 million miles (6.1 million kilometers) to the sun's photosphere, according to NASA. Over seven years, the spacecraft will make flybys of Venus to pull its orbit ever closer to the sun, providing an unprecedented close-up look at the corona and the origins of the solar wind.

Related: Read more about Parker Solar Probe

Solar Orbiter (2020-present)


Solar Orbiter is an ESA-led mission to examine how the sun generates the heliosphere, as well as the solar wind, energetic particles and other emissions from the sun. The mission launched in 2020. "Being close to the Sun allows for observations of solar surface features and their connection to the heliosphere for much longer periods than from near-Earth vantage points. The view of the solar poles will help us to understand how dynamo processes generate the sun's magnetic field," ESA stated.

Related: Read more about Solar Orbiter

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: