NASA Sending Space Probe to Sun

Set the controls for the heart of the Sun, as Pink Floyd once sang.

That's exactly what engineers at Johns Hopkins University and NASA may be doing in 2015, if all goes well with the just-announced NASA Solar Probe.

The spaceship, unmanned of course, will get to within 4.1 million miles of the Sun, about one-tenth of the orbit of Mercury, and will have to withstand temperatures of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, Johns Hopkins said in a press release earlier this month.

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The mission concept had been bouncing around NASA for more than 30 years, but it wasn't until researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory came up with a new engineering and mission design study in February that the brass in Washington gave it the green light.

"The technology is within reach, the concept is feasible and the entire mission can be done for less than $750 million," said Andrew Dantzler, Solar Probe project manager at the Applied Physics Laboratory. "NASA decided it was time."

The craft will protect itself from heat, radiation and ionized particles with a carbon-composite heat shield that will stay pointed at the Sun.

• Click here to read more at the Johns Hopkins Web site.