NASA's Parker Solar Probe is set to pass the Sun this year in a milestone moment for space exploration.

The probe, launched on Aug 12, 2018, is due to fly past the sun at 195 km/s, or 435,000 mph on 24 December 2024, the BBC reported.

NASA describes it as a mission to ""touch the Sun" on its website, aiming to get our "first-ever sampling of a star's atmosphere."

"We are basically almost landing on a star," Nour Raouafi, a scientist on the project, told the BBC.

Parker Solar Probe in front of Sun
Artist's concept of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft that launched in 2018. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

"This will be a monumental achievement for all humanity. This is equivalent to the Moon landing of 1969," he said.

The mission aims to help us gain a deeper understanding of the Sun, with the probe orbiting closer to the Sun's surface than any has before and within Mercury's orbit, NASA says.

The probe gathers measurements and images to help scientists learn more about where solar wind comes from and how it is evolving.

It also makes "critical contributions to forecasting changes in the space environment that affect life and technology on Earth."

The probe will face extreme heat and radiation on its journey, flying "more than seven times closer to the Sun than any spacecraft."

Parker Solar Probe close to Sun
Artist's concept of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

Dr Nicky Fox, NASA's head of science, told the BBC that they "don't know" what they'll find in the mission, "but we'll be looking for waves in the solar wind associated with the heating."

"I suspect we'll sense lots of different types of waves which would point to a mix of processes that people have been arguing over for years," she added.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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