“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
In 1953, Ray Bradbury published a science fiction story entitled “The Golden Apples of the Sun”, about an ill-fated mission to scoop material from the Sun’s outer atmosphere. The title came from the last line of a poem by W.B. Yeats.
Sometimes, sci-fi stories appear to come true. NASA is now planning an unmanned mission to the Sun’s outer atmosphere. The spacecraft, called the Parker Solar Probe, will orbit the Sun at a distance of about 10 million miles. This might sound a long way, but Earth’s orbit is 93 million miles from the Sun, and that of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is at 43 million miles.
The heat at the surface of the Sun is clearly the most important factor. Therefore, the design of the spacecraft is a wonderful example of human creativity and problem solving. One can imagine the tests carried out with different materials. The craft will have an 8-foot “umbrella” to deflect heat, made of an alloy of molybdenum, titanium and zirconium. Printed circuit boards are etched with acid onto tungsten – the metallic element with the highest melting point. Cables are obviously not covered with plastic, but with specially grown heat-proof crystals. The temperature of the shield will reach a few thousand degrees, yet its inside will be just 85°F!
God, who made the Sun on the fourth day of the Creation Week, has given human engineers such wonderful talents, reminding us again that we are made in the image of God.