• NASA is targeting 2024 for the launch of a new mission to learn more about the generation of cosmic rays in the heliosphere, a sort of magnetic bubble surrounding and protecting our solar system.
  • Cosmic rays created locally and from the galaxy and beyond affect human explorers in space and can harm technological systems, and likely play a role in the presence of life itself in the universe.
  • The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere.
  • IMAP was selected following an extensive and competitive peer review of proposals submitted in late 2017.
  • Heliosphere is the region where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with material from the rest of the galaxy.
  • This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.
  • IMAP will collect and analyse particles that make it through.
  • This boundary is where our Sun does a great deal to protect us.
  • IMAP is critical to broadening our understanding of how this ‘cosmic filter’ works.
  • The implications of this research could reach well beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we look to send humans into deep space.
  • The spacecraft will be positioned about 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth towards the Sun at what is called the first Lagrange point or L1.