NASA blasts off historic probe to ‘touch Sun’

Parker Solar Probe launch

The launch was originally set for Saturday morning, but was scrubbed at the last minute due to technical glitches. "Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system".

The other great mystery is the behaviour of 'solar wind, ' a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun to release energy. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as Parker accurately predicted in 1958?

The car-sized spacecraft will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere, about four million miles from its surface - and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, thanks to its innovative Thermal Protection System.

The mission called Parker Solar Probe (PSP), commenced after a 24-hour delay.

Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven "gravity-assist" flybys of Venus.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth. Yet the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.




"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done fantastic things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN.

"We are ready. We have the ideal payload".

In this Thursday, August 9, 2018, astrophysicist Eugene Parker attends a news conference about the Parker Solar Probe named after him, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI, said: 'The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth'.

Finally, after two firings of the second-stage engine, the Parker Solar Probe and its Northrup Grumman solid-fuel upper stage were released from the Delta 4.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours - the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute. "In fact, one of the key things about our early orbits is we're actually just at this sort of sweet spot. over the same area of the sun for many, many days, allowing us to do some really incredible science on our very first flyby".

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