The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is all set to announce the details of its first mission to fly directly into the sun's atmosphere, tomorrow morning.
The mission will launch in the middle of next year and put NASA's Solar Probe Plus spacecraft into orbit within a distance of 4 million miles of the sun's surface.
This would of course not be touching the surface, but in celestial terms that was very close indeed. It would eclipse the 1976 Helios 2 mission which came within about 43 million kilometres of the sun's surface.
With the Solar Probe Plus, scientists hope to unlock the mysteries of the sun's corona, the massive hole in the heart of the star. According to experts, the unstable corona was cooler than the sun's atmosphere, but they had no idea why.
NASA said in a statement that the probe will ''make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work.''
Scientists will also be able to gain crucial insight that could help them prevent, or at least prepare for, a damaging solar weather event.
The data from the probe will also help scientists forecast major space-weather events that could impact life on earth, including solar winds and solar flares, also known as mass ejections that could hit the earth's atmosphere.
''Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun's surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work,'' said Nasa.
''The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.''