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SpaceFlight Insider’s Parker Solar Probe launch highlights

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

NASA has launched a mission to get closer than its ever gotten before to the sun, its corona and solar wind.

On Sunday afternoon (India time), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's most ambitious mission, the Parker Solar Probe, launched off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for its date with the sun.

NASA on Sunday launched its Parker Solar probe in order to study the Sun's atmosphere, also known as the corona. NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth's space environment.

"We've accomplished something that decades ago, lived exclusively in the realm of science fiction", he added, describing the probe as one of Nasa's "strategically important" missions.

"Our thrusters on NASA's Parker Solar Probe are the same model as those that helped steer the New Horizons spacecraft toward its historic Pluto flyby and continue to operate in the farthest and coldest reaches of the solar system", said Drake.

It will be the fastest human-made object with speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour, able to survive million degree temperatures, orbiting the sun just 4 million miles from its surface, after a 90 million-mile trip, to get the first measurements of the sun's energy. In the years ahead, it will gradually get within 3.8 million miles (6 million kilometres) of the surface, its instruments protected from the extreme heat and radiation by a revolutionary new carbon heat shield and other high-tech wizardry.

Six weeks after launch, the probe will encounter Venus' gravity for the first time.

At closest approach, the solar shield of the probe will face temperatures approaching 1,377 degrees Celsius. This distance is about 8.5 solar radii, very close to the region where the solar wind is accelerated. "We are in for some learning over the next several years", Parker told NASA television.

Astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker with a model of the Parker Solar Probe that he inspired. As you might guess, NASA is relying on automation to make this work. The almost 7-year journey will bring the probe to within 6.2 million kilometers of the Sun's surface.

This lightweight insulation will be accompanied by a finishing touch of white ceramic paint on the sun-facing plate, to reflect as much heat as possible.

NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said Saturday that Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community", and called the probe one of NASA most "strategically important" missions.

The RL10 second stage engine helped send the Parker Solar Probe, developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, into a heliocentric orbit that ultimately will take it around the Sun 24 times.

The car-sized probe will give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

More than 1 million names are aboard the spacecraft, submitted last spring by space enthusiasts, as well as photos of Parker, the man, and a copy of his 1958 landmark paper on solar wind. It wasn't until four years later, when a spacecraft bound for Venus found traces of energized particles streaming through space, that Parker's theory started to gain acceptance.