The fine folks at NASA are sending a spacecraft to the Sun, and they want to send a little piece of you along with it. Here’s how to get your name on the ultimate “fry” list.
A memory chip containing a list of submitted names will be inserted into the Parker Solar Probe, which is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre next year. You can be included on this Hot Ticket—get it, because the Sun is hot—by going here and submitting your name. It took me about 30 seconds to do it, and then NASA sent me this sexy certificate which I can now show off to you guys.
Yay, this means the 13 letters that signify my identity will be bombarded by the Sun’s intense heat, solar winds, and high-energy radiation from December 2024 through to some point in late 2025 when the probe is likely to meet a flaming end. No humans will be able to join the Parker Probe for the journey, but at least our names can be incinerated in our stead.
This opportunity is so exciting that even Captain Kirk wants you to do it.
The spacecraft, named after astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will study the Sun in—literally—excruciating detail. Over the course of a year, the probe will fly close enough to measure changes in solar wind speeds, detect high-energy solar particles, and observe the structure of the Sun’s magnetic fields. At its closest approach, the Parker probe will be 8.5 solar radii (that is, 8.5 times the radius of the Sun, or 3.67 miles/5.9 million km) from the Sun’s surface, known as the photosphere. That’s seven times closer than the previous proximity record, held by the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles of the Sun in 1976.
At this distance, the spacecraft will be exposed to temperatures exceeding 2,500 degrees F, (1,377 C). NASA will equip the probe with a 4.5-inch-thick (11.4 cm) carbon-composite shield to protect its internal components and the memory chip containing your precious name. During its closest approach, the Parker probe will be zooming at 430,000 mph, a speed that would get you from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia in one hot second.
The probe will launch aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket equipped with an upper stage sometime between July 31 and August 19, 2018. It’ll be flung towards Venus, where the spacecraft will use repeated gravity assists—seven orbits in seven years—to get ever-closer to its destination, the Sun’s low solar corona, or atmosphere.