In August, the Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Earth aboard a Delta IV Heavy booster. The relatively small, 685kg spacecraft needed to achieve a high speed in order to establish an orbit around the Sun—rather than getting drawn into the star’s massive gravity well never to escape.
According to NASA, the spacecraft is well on its way. The space agency reports that the probe now holds the record for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object, passing inside the current record of 42.7 million kilometers from the Sun’s surface on Oct. 29, 2018, at about 1:04pm ET (17:04 UTC). The previous record was established in April 1976, by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft.
“It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, in a news release. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.”