Watch Live: NASA Previews Mission to Visit the Edge of Space This Month

GOLD will study how radiation from the sun affects the edge of space. NASA

Later on Thursday, NASA will host a press conference about the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD mission, a pioneering project to understand what happens where Earth and space rub up against each other. The event, which will be streamed live online, begins at 1:00 pm Eastern time.

The mission itself is scheduled to launch later this month, on January 25, when it should become NASA's first science project to actually reside on a commercial satellite. That means it isn't just a scientifically interesting endeavor, but one that could have bigger consequences for how the government works with private companies to make the most out of space technology.

While GOLD is in orbit, it will be studying what happens at the very upper boundary of Earth's atmosphere, where our planet meets the very closest edge of space. That may sound unambitious when we have sent spacecraft to the very edge of our solar system, but it's actually a crucial region to understand.

On Earth's side of this region is all the weather that shapes our daily lives, and on the space side of the boundary is a barrage of terrifying charged particles and ions that pounds the atmosphere every moment of every day.

Depending on how far that hail makes it past our planet's magnetic and gaseous shields, it can affect the army of satellites circling Earth that manage our navigation and communication. In order to keep those up and running, we need to know as much as possible about what can damage them—this mission should help with that mission.