The spacecraft, built to withstand the scorching heat of the Sun, but to study its activity, survived its first close encounter with a star.
Solar Orbiter, a joint project of NASA and ESA, first approached the Sun, reaching 48 million miles from the surface, which is about half the distance to Earth. The spacecraft launched on February 9, 2020, became close to our star in order to solve some long-standing mysteries regarding the magnetic field, solar storms, and how the star affects the outer space environment.
This week the first perihelion of the spacecraft took place – this is the point in orbit closest to the Sun. For the first time since the launch, the mission team tested ten scientific instruments of the spacecraft, including making the closest images of the Sun in history.