'Touch the sun': NASA spacecraft hurtles toward our star

14 August, 2018, 16:12 | Author: Carmen Reese
  • NASA's Parker Solar Probe Rolls Out to Launchpad for Sun Touching Mission

Space agency Nasa postponed the launch of a satellite set to fly into the sun's atmosphere, or corona.

NASA managers have cleared the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe for launch early Saturday on a daring mission to "touch the sun". He proposed the existence of solar wind - a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting off the sun - 60 years ago.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage will provide the energy needed to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity, allowing the Parker Solar Probe to fall into the inner solar system. This image made available by NASA shows an artist's rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun.

The launch countdown was halted with just one-minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV (four) rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the Parker Solar Probe. "We need to go so fast because we have to lose the influence of the Earth".

Over the course of seven years, Parker will make 24 loops around our star to study the physics of the corona, the place where much of the important activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.

Once on its way, the Parker probe will venture closer to our star than any other spacecraft.

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The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of its surface during a seven-year mission.

The spacecraft eventually will run out of fuel and, no longer be able to keep its heat shield pointed toward the Sun, will burn and break apart - except perhaps for the rugged heat shield.

"In our very first flyby (of the sun), we get a little more than 15 million miles away from the sun's surface", Fox said.

"As we go from the surface of the Sun, which is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and move up into the corona, we find ourselves quickly at millions of degrees", he said. We've studied it from missions that are close in, even as close as the planet Mercury.

"Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit heat of the corona". The trick was making the spacecraft small, compact and light enough to travel at incredible speeds, while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme change in temperature when the spacecraft is out near Venus. On the probe Parker spent about $ 1.5 billion.

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