In April of 1976, the German-American Helios 2 probe made spaceflight's closest-ever solar approach, cruising within 26.55 million miles (42.73 million kilometers) of the sun. But NASA's Parker Solar Probe zoomed inside that distance today (Oct. 29), crossing the threshold at about 1:04 p.m. EDT (1704 GMT), agency officials said.
Helios 2 also set the mark back then for fastest speed relative to the sun, at 153,454 mph (246,960 km/h). The Parker Solar Probe is expected to best that today as well, reaching higher speeds at about 10:54 p.m. EDT (0254 GMT on Oct. 30), NASA officials said. (NASA's Juno Jupiter spacecraft currently holds the record for top speed relative to Earth; the probe reached 165,000 mph, or 265,000 km/h, during its arrival at the giant planet in July 2016.) [NASA's Parker Solar Probe Mission to the Sun in Pictures]
These records will fall again and again over the course of the Parker Solar Probe's $1.5 billion mission, which began Aug. 12 with a liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft will study the sun during 24 close flybys over the nex