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NASA has funded a five-year outreach program in association with the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH), a solar mission led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). The PUNCH Outreach Program, also led by SwRI, is collaborating with five planetariums and science centers in four states, plus other multicultural partners in the southwestern United States.
PUNCH has passed its Key Decision Point C, and has been confirmed as a “GO” for development and flight. The decision was made in a hybrid in-person & remote meeting at NASA Headquarters between project management, the Explorers Program, the Mission Directorate, the joints heads of the Science Divisions, and the Associate Administrator for Science. The mission is transitioning to a merged Phase C (Final Design) and Phase D (Assembly, Integration, & Test). PUNCH Phase C/D continues through launch plus 90 days. More details will be posted shortly.
The PUNCH mission consists of four spacecraft in Earth orbit that together will be uniquely capable of imaging the space environment from the outer corona of the Sun all the way to Earth orbit. There is a Near Field Imager and three Wide Field Imagers (WFIs).
PUNCH 2 Science Meeting First Announcement (March 31, 2021) We invite the community to the second PUNCH (Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere) Science Meeting (August 9-11, 2021), an in-development NASA mission that will image the outer corona and solar wind throughout the inner heliosphere. Major science topics include origin and evolution of the ambient solar wind and turbulence within it, and the physics and predictability of transient events including CMEs, CIRs, and shocks.
During June, the PUNCH Outreach Program deployed the first two expeditions to collect photography at an ancient Sun-watching site in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Our friends in the Native community emphasized that these sites are as alive today as they were to the ancestors, and in working at such places it is critical that we respect them and have a pure heart. We need to honor the ancestors. As such, the photography team learned to engage in a moment of reflection and appreciation each day before starting work at the site.
SAN ANTONIO — May 24, 2021 — On May 20, 2021, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its spacecraft and payload experiments. Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere visible during total solar eclipses, with the “solar wind” that fills the solar system.