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Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Next year, NASA will launch an unmanned spacecraft to get within 4 million miles of the sun. NASA announced today that they are renaming the probe, initially the Solar Probe Plus, to the Parker Solar Probe, after Gene Parker whose research 60 years ago revolutionized heliophysics.

Why it matters: Assuming a successful launch, this will be the closest a man-made object has come to the sun.

The Earth sits about 93 million miles away and scientists say that we are too far away to answer three outstanding questions:

  1. Why is the sun's surface (the photosphere) cooler than its atmosphere (the corona)?
  2. How does solar wind gets its speed?
  3. Why does the sun emit solar energetic particles that are dangerous to unprotected space travelers?

The spacecraft: In order to withstand the sun's heat, NASA scientists designed a 4.5 inch think carbon-composite shield, which can survive temperatures of 2,500-degrees Fahrenheit. The ship is also equipped with thermal radiators, which will act as tubes to radiate heat back into open space. The probe will travel at about 430,000 mph. What's next: The probe is undergoing its final thermal testing and integration research, and will be moved by the end of the year to its launching point in Florida. In July 2018, the probe will launch into space, it will loop Venus seven times eventually through surfing closer and closer to the surface.

Go deeper

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.