Nasa launches historic space probe in mission to 'touch' the sun

12 August, 2018, 12:51 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Parker Solar Probe

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, mankind's first mission to "touch" the Sun, has been launched today on a seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of our star's fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather.

Originally slated to fly in the small hours of Saturday morning, the Parker Solar Probe blasted off Sunday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 03:31 am EDT / 00:31 PT / 8.31 UMT.

NASA's first mission to the sun - will expolore the sun's atmosphere and its outermost atmosphere, the corona. Scientists aim to learn more about the mechanisms that power the solar wind of charged particles the sun sends into the solar system, creating aurorae on Earth and sometimes screwing with our tech.

In an unprecedented quest, the Parker Solar Probe will fly within 3.8 million miles of the sun's surface.

But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.

The craft will be protected from the heat of the sun by a revolutionary new heat shield.


A worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade to fully recover from, experts have warned.

The Parker Solar Probe carries a lineup of instruments to study the Sun both remotely and in situ, or directly.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Over the next seven years, there will be 24 close approaches to the sun. We are ready. We have the flawless payload.

Thousands of spectators jammed the launch site, including 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker after whom the spacecraft is named. The extreme pull of the sun's gravity will then accelerate the probe up to insane speeds of as much as 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 km/h) as it grazes the edge of the most powerful object in our corner of the galaxy.

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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