‘Touch the sun’: NASA spacecraft hurtles toward our star

Parker Solar Probe launch

Diving directly into the sun's corona, its outer atmosphere, a mere 3.83 million miles from the surface, the probe will endure unimaginable heat and radiation to further our understanding of solar activity, including insights on the inner workings of the corona and the origins of solar winds.

It will also be the fastest human made object traveling at 430,000 miles (6,92,000 kms) per hour, according to Korreck, who is part of the mission.

"We need more understanding to predict these flares and coronal mass ejections as they produce space weather which could affect our technology-based society by damaging satellites and power grids", Korreck said, adding that "We also get the attractive northern and southern lights because of these effects". Eastern on Sunday after an initial launch attempt on Saturday was scrubbed because of a last-minute technical glitch.

The craft is equipped with a first of it's kind heat shield, and an internal water cooling system that will protect the instruments from the extreme conditions.

"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 will unlock mysteries of the corona, including why it's so much hotter than the surface of the sun which is about 10,000 Farenheit", Brown said. And why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as Parker theorised in 1958?

The first information from the mission will be transmitted back to earth later this year.

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"I'm greatly honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission", Parker said. To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the sun's heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Such automation is needed because sunlight takes eight minutes to reach Earth 93 million miles away. Hurling a spacecraft to the sun can actually make sense. Along the way, the spacecraft will gather data to try and solve some of the sun's great mysteries.

He proposed the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago.

NASA will, on Sunday have another go at launching their historic unmanned Parker Solar Probe. The shield's front surface will be able to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft up to 2,500 degree Fahrenheit.

The Delta-IV Heavy rocket - which was carrying the probe - launched at 03:31 local time (07:31 GMT). FIELDS will measure electric and magnetic waves around the probe, WISPR will take images, SWEAP will count charged particles and measure their properties, and ISOIS will measure the particles across a wide spectrum.

The Parker Solar Probe rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It was the first rocket launch ever witnessed by Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. Seven Venus flybys are planned over the seven-year mission to fine-tune the trajectory, setting up the close-in aim points. Parker was even there to see the launch - his first one ever.

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