NASA spacecraft hurtles toward the sun

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

NASA Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to high-five the sun

Altogether, it will make 24 close approaches over the next seven years.

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The Parker solar probe, a robotic spacecraft the size of a small vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Sunday, embarking on a seven-year mission which will see it flying into the sun's corona - the outermost part of its atmosphere - within 3.8m miles (6.1 m km) of its surface. Saturday morning's launch attempt was foiled by last-minute technical trouble.

The rocket sets a number of records.

Sunday's flight marked the 129th successful flight for ULA, and the 10th for the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

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.

That probably sounds like a bad idea, blasting something into the sun, the flawless sphere of unfathomably hot plasma at the centre of our solar system.

New Horizons' data suggests a wall of hydrogen marks the edge of the solar system, where the sun's solar winds peter out, no longer able to push back interstellar winds.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the vehicle, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season.

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"We'll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - NY to Tokyo in under a minute".

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

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hour (692,000 kilometers per hour). But if the mission goes as planned, the probe's discoveries will serve as a lasting legacy to Eugene Parker, the only living person to have a NASA spacecraft named after him. The closest we've been before is around 27 million miles, so we're getting there.

The spacecraft is protected from melting during its close shave with the Sun by a heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

It was the first rocket launch ever witnessed by Parker, a retired University of Chicago professor.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University said in a tweet right before liftoff.

The mission may help scientists predict space weather events that can wreak havoc on Earth. He said it was like looking at photos of the Taj Mahal for years and then beholding the real thing in India.

"What's so cool about all of this is hanging out with Parker and seeing his emotion", Zurbuchen said, adding that Parker went from being excited about the launch to being excited about the science to come. "Even I still go, really? We're in for some learning here over the next several years".

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said.

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