NASA launches mission to fly closer to the Sun than ever before

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

At the same time the solar probe Faraday cup is measuring the properties of the solar wind close to the sun at 8 solar radii, a sister Faraday cup on Voyager (launched in 1977) will probably be measuring plasma in the local interstellar space, totally outside the solar atmosphere, beyond 100 astronomical units, or 20,000 solar radii.

It will also be the fastest-moving man-made object in space.

On board the Delta IV Heavy rocket is the Parker Solar Probe on its first mission to the sun.

Saturday's planned departure date was foiled by last-minute technical problems but NASA pointed out that there was no better day for the launch of a mission to "touch the sun" than Sunday.

The probe will explore the corona, the outermost atmosphere of the Sun, and investigate the mysteries of the solar wind, the flow of charged particles that streams into the solar system at about...

Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven "gravity-assist" flybys of Venus.

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However the technology to make the spacecraft small and light enough to travel at incredible speeds - while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme changes in temperature - are only now possible.

On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will travel at about 430,000 miles per hour, a new speed record for a manmade object, NASA said of the mission, its first to be named after a living person.

The Parker Solar Probe had successfully reached space and phoned home. The probe's power-generating solar arrays are water-cooled to keep them from overheating.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation on Earth.

The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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If all goes well, the Parker Solar Probe will fly straight through the wispy edges of the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, in November. It'll fly just over 6 million km from the surface - protected from the searing temperatures by a revolutionary new heat shield. "It took a while for the Delta IV Heavy to clear the pad", Fox said, "but I was prepared for that, so I didn't panic".

The Parker Probe is named after Dr. Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist given credit behind the solar wind theory in the late 1950's. "We're in for some learning here over the next several years". The spacecraft will also be prepared for the first of seven planned Venus flybys scheduled for October 2.

PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.

The sun is 93 million miles from Earth.

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

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