NASA begins countdown to launch of first spacecraft to ‘touch Sun’

The spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun. Pic John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

Image The spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys to get nearer the sun. Pic NASA

Why is it so hard?

Closely observing this region will help experts identify the source of that coronal heating, along with the process that accelerates the solar wind at enormous speeds when it leaves the Sun. Its mission will take it to within 4 million miles from the sun, close enough to get detailed measurements of the sun's atmosphere, but far enough away not to burn up.

The car-sized spacecraft will be launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Saturday at around 3:50 am eastern standard time.

For Howard, who has personally worked on almost all NRL coronagraph telescope launches, the Parker Solar Probe will be a culmination of decades of work.

Parker also received a tour of Kennedy Space Center.

A NASA probe is about to launch on a mission to the sun in the name of protecting the Earth.

Over the course of its seven-year mission, the probe will orbit the sun 24 times, each time sweeping through the corona, where the temperature is a blistering 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 1,400 degrees Celsius).

The spacecraft holds photos of Parker as well as a copy of his 1958 research paper on what he termed solar wind.

The 65-minute window opened at 3:33 a.m., but the launch time was pushed back 20 minutes after minor issues with ground equipment before a mobile service tower could be rolled back from the rocket, and then concerns about sensor readings that delayed the start of fueling. About the size of a small auto, it weighs a mere 1,400 pounds. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun...

The observations and data could provide insight about the physics of stars, change what we know about the mysterious corona, increase understanding of solar wind and help improve forecasting of major space weather events.

But getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down - for which Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus.

"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI.

"We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

Following the launch the spacecraft will head towards Venus. "During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favorable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun". The temperatures at the surface of the shield will climb up to 1370 ° C. This heat comes from the radiation of the nearby Sun, whose surface reaches 5500 ° C. Betsy Congdon is confident; 'in our tests, we showed what [the probe] was made of'.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

But the Parker Solar Probe will hopefully have no such issue, thanks to a state-of-the-art heat shield that not only can fearless the blistering heat of the sun, but will also make sure the spacecraft stays cool, the Inquisitr previously reported.

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