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2017 Featured Story #3: NASA Renames Solar Probe Mission in Honor of MSU Physics Alumnus Eugene Parker

NASA Renames Solar Probe Mission for MSU P-A Alumnus Eugene Parker

In a ceremony at the University of Chicago on 31 May 2017, NASA announced that the former Solar Probe Plus mission, which will launch in 2018, was being renamed the Parker Solar Probe in honor of solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. Dr. Parker is the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the University of Chicago's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This is the first time a spacecraft has been named for a living person.

Dr. Parker received his B.S. from Michigan State University's Department of Physics in 1948 and continued on to receive his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1951. In the mid-1950s, he developed a theory that the sun emits high-speed streams of particles which interact with its magnetic field and the interstellar medium; these became known as the "solar wind", and were experimentally observed by 1962, quelling early skepticism on the part of many other astrophysicists upon first encountering the theory. He maintains ties to MSU, as his daughter, Joyce Parker, is an Assistant Professor in the MSU Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and his son-in-law, Ed Loh, is a Professor in the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the George Ellery Hale Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Bruce Medal, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Kyoto Prize, and the James Clerk Maxwell Prize.

For additional information, see the announcement on NASA's website, the press release by the University of Chicago, the article on the Parker Solar Probe's own website, the article on the MSU College of Natural Sceince website or news items from The Guardian, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, USA Today, or the New York Times.