I wonder which job is tougher; blogging or designing “a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun’s atmosphere where it can sample solar wind and magnetism first hand.” One the one hand, blogging makes your hands, fingers, and wrists hurt sometimes. On the other hand, nobody’s ever been anywhere near the sun before. It’s a toss up, for sure.
The mission will be called Solar Probe+ and it could be underway as early as 2015 (provided the earth doesn’t end), taking roughly seven years to complete.
The closest the probe will get to the sun is about 4.4 million miles, which seems pretty far away but I bet it’d burn your eyebrows off if you got that close. The mission seeks to find the answers to two great mysteries about the sun; why it’s hotter on the outside than it is in the middle and how the hell solar wind works.
There’s an interesting school of thought called Thunderbolts Theory (or the Electric Universe model) that explores the idea that the predominant force in the Universe isn’t gravity, but electricity and magnetism, and that the sun and similar solar structures are dominated by electric currents, not convection (heat) currents. I have no idea what’s what, but here’s an interesting video if you’re open to alternate explanations and theories about how everything works.
My point is, it’ll be interesting to see what this NASA probe finds and how it differs, if at all, from what we already know or think we know about the sun.