Nasa launches historic space probe in mission to 'touch' the sun

Parker Solar Probe launch

The Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early on Sunday.

NASA says the probe will travel directly into the sun's atmosphere over the course of its mission and will get to within about four million miles of the star's surface.

Through this mission, NASA is hoping to solve decades-old mysteries around what accelerates the solar winds that affect Earth and other planets.

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

The entire project cost R20.5-billion and will continue until 2025.

Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: 'The sun is full of mysteries.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are lovely ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

To reach its target, the Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage had to supply enough energy to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity around the sun, allowing the spacecraft to fall into the inner solar system.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October.


These solar outbursts are poorly understood, but pack the potential to wipe out power to millions of people.

It is said to endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times greater than that experienced on Earth.

NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, was thrilled not only with the launch, but Parker's presence.

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.

No wonder scientists consider it the coolest, hottest mission under the sun, and what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday as NASA noted. Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only recently did the heat shield technology capable of protecting sensitive instruments become available.

"We are ready. We have the ideal payload". It could be due to interactions between electrically charged particles and the sun's powerful magnetic field, or it could be the result of countless "nanoflares" governed by another mechanism. "We know the questions we want to answer".

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.

The Parker Probe is named after Dr. Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist given credit behind the solar wind theory in the late 1950's.

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