NASA's Parker Solar Probe—designed, built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory—will launch in summer 2018 on a historic mission to the sun.
NASA is inviting people from around the world to submit their names online to go on a microchip aboard the spacecraft, which will be exposed to soaring temperatures as it plunges into the sun's corona to get the first close-up view of Earth's star.
"This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades."
Name submissions will be accepted until April 27. More than 550,000 people have submitted their names thus far.
Parker Solar Probe's scientific objectives include tracing the flow of energy and understanding the heating of the solar corona, and exploring what accelerates the solar wind. It will also help scientists understand in greater detail how the sun affects the solar system and Earth.
"Parker Solar Probe is, quite literally, the fastest, hottest—and, to me, coolest—mission under the sun," said project scientist Nicola Fox of APL. "This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we've not been able to understand."
The spacecraft was named in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who proposed the solar wind's existence in his now famous 1958 paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual.
Explore further: Image: Prepping the Parker Solar Probe for space