The probe will allow NASA to explore the magnetic arc of the solar system known as the heliosphere and shed light on some of the biggest mysteries around the liminal space between our solar system and interstellar space.
According to the agency, NASA will collaborate with SpaceX on a mission to explore the far margins of the solar system.
In June 2018, NASA SpaceX announced as the designated partner for the interstellar mapping and accelerator probe of the agency. The probe will enable NASA to explore the magnetic borders of the solar system known as the heliosphere, and shed light on some of the biggest mysteries surrounding the liminal space between our solar system and interstellar space. If everything goes as planned, SpaceX will send the probe in October 2024.
One of the key questions the probe could answer is why the solar system’s heliosphere works so perfectly – which is essentially a gigantic magnetic filter – only. Scientists know that particles emitted by the sun form a solar wind which protects the rest of the solar system from particles and cosmic radiation that comes into other parts of the universe. But some neutral particles make it through this filter and infiltrate our cosmic neighbourhood.
Researchers can also help humans to achieve more ambitious astronaut-led missions into space. The probe will also observe cosmic rays and will help scientists on the ground better understand how they form These rays could play a role in the life in the universe, says NASA, but they can also cause problems for astronauts and space infrastructure. This is a major concern for further developments, as people like SpaceX – CEO Elon Musk call for humans to use fuelable rockets to venture into space deeper than ever.
This boundary is where our sun does a lot to protect us. IMAP is crucial to broadening our understanding of how this ‘cosmic filter’ works,’ said Dennis Andrucyk, assistant administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, after the mission was first chosen. The implications of this research could extend far beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we examine human presence in deep space.