U awarded grant for a trip to the Sun

The $7 million grant from NASA will go toward the launch of an unmanned spacecraft into the Sun’s atmosphere.

by Frank

The University of Minnesota was awarded a $7 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration this week to build a spacecraft component for a 2018 unmanned mission to the sun.

NASAâÄôs Solar Probe Plus project awarded the University the grant.

The $180 million project will bring a spacecraft as close as 4 million miles from the surface of the sun âÄì the closest a human-made object has ever been to the surface.

“This project allows humanity’s ingenuity to go where no spacecraft has ever gone before,” NASA’s SPP program scientist Lika Guhathakurta said in a statement. “For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun.”

The University will be responsible for constructing an instrument called the Time Domain Sampler, something with which Keith Goetz, College of Science and EngineeringâÄôs School of Physics and Astronomy associate program director, is very familiar.

âÄúThe Time Domain Sampler is really Keith’s expertise,âÄù Cynthia Cattell, University physics professor, said. âÄúItâÄôs something he’s built for a number of other missions.âÄù

The spacecraft will fly directly into the sunâÄôs atmosphere, or corona, to try and gain a better understanding of the coronal and solar winds.

âÄúThis concept has been kicking around for decades,âÄù Goetz said. Until now, it has not been technologically feasible, he said.

 âÄúThey are a lot of technical difficulties in getting that close to the sun,âÄù Cattell said.