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Will we ever be able to send a rocket to the sun?

Will we ever be able to send a rocket to the sun?
Corin Greaves from Lancashire (age 5-14)

Answer

We have the technology now to send a satellite to the sun. Rockets as such are only used to lift something like a satellite or a manned vehicle off the surface of the earth and push it out into space. The vehicle then coast through space using small manoeuvring thruster to change course. It is possible to send a satellite near to the sun to give it a slingshot towards a distant planet. The slingshot gives the satellite some extra energy from the suns gravity to speed it up. You can show this by getting a friend to run towards you, as they pass you grab their hand and swing them back the way they came. They usually end up falling over due to the extra speed you give them. (only try this in a wide open space and be careful of scraped knees etc). There was a Russian plan to get rid of nuclear waste by loading it on a rocket and blasting it into the sun to burn up. There are a number of serious environmental issues with this way of waste disposal.

Rod Stevenson, Vice Chairman, Space Education Council

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