NASA launches Parker Solar Probe in first mission to 'touch Sun'

Katie Ramirez
August 14, 2018

If all goes well, the Parker Solar Probe will fly straight through the wispy edges of the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, in November.

The mission may help scientists predict space weather events that can wreak havoc on Earth. But due to a technical snag, the launch date was delayed and scheduled on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) during a window that will remain open for 65 minutes.

Aram....what's the latest? Well Mark...after a one-day delay, NASA's Parker Solar Probe successfully lifted off on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and is now on its way to the Sun.

"Tested to withstand up to 1,650 degrees Celsius, the TPS can handle any heat the Sun can send its way, keeping nearly all instrumentation safe", said NASA.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off. Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

"It will help us understand a fundamental aspect of the sun-Earth interaction, the solar wind", Alexander said. These findings, in turn, could serve a practical goal by helping space agencies anticipate and protect against solar flares that can disrupt satellites and electrical grids on Earth.

On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will travel at about 430,000 miles per hour, a new speed record for a manmade object, NASA said of the mission, its first to be named after a living person.

USA space agency Nasa has launched its mission to send a satellite closer to the Sun than any before.

The specially shielded Parker Solar Probe will have to endure temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) and solar radiation intensities 475 times higher than we're used to here on Earth.

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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. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

With a communication lag time of 16 minutes each way, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun.

The other great mystery is the behaviour of 'solar wind, ' a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun to release energy.

In 1976 Nasa's Helios 2 spacecraft travelled within 27 million miles of the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe during final pre-launch processing, its white heat shield visible at the top.

Using probe, the scientists want to study the plasma around stars, the structure and dynamics of magnetic fields to measure the levels emitted by the corona energy and the acceleration of the solar wind. So Parker will be the first space ship that close to the solar surface.

The Aditya L1 satellite craft will not be getting close and personal with the sun but it will be inhabiting a halo orbit called the L1 point - where a satellite can get unobstructed views of the sun.

It was the first rocket launch ever witnessed by Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. In 1958, Parker published a paper where he set out the idea of solar wind.

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