What do we really know about the heliosphere? Last week, NASA announced a new program that will help us find out. According to Popular Science, the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) project is set to investigate the bubble that protects the Earth from interstellar radiation. What we know now is that solar wind, plasma-ionized gas containing magnetic fields, is part of what keeps us safe from the dangers of outer space.
“The implications of this research could reach well beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we look to send humans into deep space,” said Dennis Andrucyk, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.
The probe won’t launch until 2024 at the earliest, and it’s budgeted for $492 million, not including the cost of the launch. The journey to the measurement site of cosmic radiation will be a mere one million miles—a short road trip in our solar system—and may help us better understand the mysteries of deep space.
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