NASA launched a probe to 'touch the sun'

NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star

NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star

Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun's bright face during total solar eclipses. It also marks ULA's sixth launch in 2018 and the 129 successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

The mission may help scientists predict space weather events that can wreak havoc on Earth. It'll fly just over 6 million km from the surface - protected from the searing temperatures by a revolutionary new heat shield.

The unprecedented sun-skimming probe that lifted off today from the United States is set to study the "solar winds" proposed in the paper by Dr Eugene Newman Parker, who has now become the first living scientist to have mission named after him.

"All I have to say is wow, here we go".

"There's nothing like a rocket launch live", said Parker, now 91, who watched the launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The mission is named for Dr Eugene Parker, a physicist at the University of Chicago who proposed the existence of solar wind.

NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

From Earth, it is 93 million miles to the sun (150 million kilometres), and the Parker probe will be within four percent of that distance.

The launch was initially planned for Saturday morning.

The second attempt on Sunday at 3.31am local time was a success.

"Now I have to turn from really biting my nails to thinking about the interesting things [to come] that I don't know yet, which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five, six, or seven years", he said.

As detailed by NASA, the Parker Solar Probe's mission is to "touch" the sun by using gravity assists from Venus to get itself as close as possible to the Earth's nearest star.

"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've looked at it". A voice could be heard saying: "A daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star". "It's incredible to be standing here today". The probe's power-generating solar arrays are water-cooled to keep them from overheating. On its very first brush with the sun, it will come within 15.5 million miles, easily beating the current record of 27 million miles set by NASA's Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.

Even Fox has difficulty comprehending the mission's derring-do.

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.

It's going to be subjected to temperatures of about 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the heat shelter is going to mean that it only feels like about 29C, and it's been warmer than that in London this summer.

A mission to get close up and personal with our star has been on NASA's books since 1958.

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