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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Parker Solar Probe Changed the Game Before it Even Launched

4 Oct 2018, 15:21 UTC
Parker Solar Probe Changed the Game Before it Even Launched HO/AFP/Getty Images

On Oct. 3, 2018, Parker Solar Probe performed the first significant celestial maneuver of its seven-year mission. As the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus' gravity — relatively small by celestial standards — to twist its path and change its speed. This maneuver, called a gravity assist, reduced Parker's speed relative to the Sun by 10 percent — amounting to 7,000 miles per hour — drawing the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, nearer to the star by 4 million miles.

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