After short delay, Nasa launches mission to 'touch the Sun'

Rosemary Collier
August 14, 2018

The probe is named after the American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, who was the first to study and discover the continuously flowing solar winds in the Sun's atmosphere in 1958.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey towards the Moon or Mars.

The findings will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth's space environment that affect life and technology on Earth. But due to a technical snag, the launch date was delayed and scheduled on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) during a window that will remain open for 65 minutes.

Physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name - NASA's Parker Solar Probe - early in the morning of August 12, 2018.

The 8-foot (2.4-metre) heat shield will serve as an umbrella that will shade the spacecraft's scientific instruments, with on-board sensors adjusting the protective cover as necessary so that nothing gets fried.

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

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. These findings, in turn, could serve a practical goal by helping space agencies anticipate and protect against solar flares that can disrupt satellites and electrical grids on Earth.

It is said the data gathered by the car-sized probe will "revolutionise" our understanding of the star, which has a huge impact on Earth.

"This mission truly marks humanity's first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

At closest approach to the sun, the front of PSP's solar shield faces temperatures approaching 2,500 degrees F. The spacecraft's payload will be near room temperature. Solar wind carries charged particles and magnetic clouds away from the sun, and some of it reaches as far as the earth's atmosphere.

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Parker's equations predicted the solar wind, but six decades later, scientists can't precisely explain the physics driving its acceleration or the corona's extreme heating.

The questions posed by Nasa are these: "Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our sun". Parker was even there to see the launch - his first one ever.

Rocket maker United Launch Alliance said it would try again Sunday, provided the helium-pressure issue can be resolved quickly.

The Parker solar probe is named after Eugene Parker, in recognition of his contribution to the study of the sun and of solar wind in particular.

The spacecraft will travel through material with temperatures greater than several million degrees Celsius while being bombarded with intense sunlight.

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