Nasa launches first mission to 'touch Sun'

Parker Solar Probe

Three hours ago, NASA tweeted its launch of the Parker Solar Probe to the Sun carried by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

It's not a journey that any human can make, so NASA is sending a fully autonomous probe closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever reached.

The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will transmit its first scientific observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

"If you go out to the moon or if you're planning on going out to Mars or elsewhere, these solar energetic particles provide potentially a very unsafe radiation environment for astronauts", McComas said.

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

NASA in their blog quoted the Launch Director Omar Baez as saying,"Parker Solar Probe has been one of our most challenging missions to date".

The corona, visible from Earth during last year's total solar eclipse as a fiery glow around the sun with wispy bands stretching outward, is far hotter than the roiling surface below it.

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"It's of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict space weather much like we predict weather here on Earth", said Young.

The probe will charge into the sun's corona behind what engineers have nicknamed its "Eight-Foot Frisbee" - a heat shield measuring eight feet across and just four-and-a-half inches thick.

The probe has been outfitted with a heat shield created to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit at its closest pass to the Sun.

If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The spacecraft will travel through material with temperatures greater than several million degrees Celsius while being bombarded with intense sunlight. "If you think of putting your oven on and you set it at 400 degrees, and you can put your hand inside your oven and you won't get burned unless you actually touch a surface".

"The corona is very tenuous plasma", said Nicola Fox, the mission's project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958.

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In 2012, one of NASA's sun-watching spacecraft, Stereo-A, detected an explosion comparable to the 1859 explosion.

"She has to be able to look after herself", Fox said of the probe.

A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May.

"We always say that luck has absolutely nothing to do with this business, but I will take all that I can get", ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno said in an interview Friday.

Parker watched the launch at Cape Canaveral, and said it was his first time seeing a rocket blast off in person. He said it was like looking at photos of the Taj Mahal for years and then beholding the real thing in India.

Sunday's mission was United Launch Alliance's sixth of the year, and the third countdown in less than six days on the Eastern Range, starting with SpaceX's early August 7 launch of an Indonesian satellite.

The rocket was on the launch pad when the countdown clock was interrupted, as officials investigated an alarm.

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