Next for NASA: Visiting the Sun Solar Probe Plus to launch before 2018 By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff Posted Sep 3, 2010 7:12 AM CDT 12 comments Comments This image provided by NASA shows an eruptive prominence blasting away from the sun ... looks scary to us. (AP Photo/NASA) (Newser) – NASA's plans for this decade are pretty hot. Literally. The agency plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft before 2018 that will enter the Sun's atmosphere. Though the nearest it will get is about four million miles from the Sun's surface, that's still closer than the US has ever gotten, and should help to unlock decades-old mysteries—specifically, says a NASA director, "why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?” The project, dubbed Solar Probe Plus, will use a spacecraft that can withstand both intense radiation and temperatures of 2550 degrees Fahrenheit, reports Mashable.