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m3n4.net August 17, 2018


Lift off! NASA's 'touch the sun' Parker Solar Probe mission launches

12 August 2018, 04:12 | Brenda Erickson

NASA Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to high-five the sun

NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star

Passing within 3.8 million miles of the sun's visible surface - well within the shimmering halo of the outer atmosphere, or corona - the spacecraft's heat shield will endure 2,500-degree heating while whipping past the star at a record 430,000 mph, fast enough to fly from NY to Tokyo in less than a minute.

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.

"The sun is full of mysteries", said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

The spacecraft has been named after 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who was one of the many spectators who arrived at the launch site to watch the historic moment. It eventually will get within 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) of the surface in the years ahead, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible.

"The unique requirements of this mission made the Delta IV Heavy the flawless launch vehicle to deliver Parker Solar Probe into orbit with the highest precision", said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

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A Saturday launch attempt was delayed due to a technical glitch.

On board the Delta IV Heavy rocket is the Parker Solar Probe on its first mission to the sun. All I can say is: "'Wow, here we go.' We're in for some learning over the next seven years".

"The spacecraft must operate in the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees", Brown told ABC News via email.

NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, was thrilled not only with the launch, but Parker's presence.

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.

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Zurbuchen considers the sun the most important star in our universe - it's ours, after all - and so this is one of NASA's big-time strategic missions. The first information from the mission will be transmitted back to earth later this year.

Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.

With a communication lag time of 16 minutes each way, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun.

Yanping Guo, who designed the mission trajectory, said: "The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto".

More than 1 million names are aboard the spacecraft, submitted last spring by space enthusiasts, as well as photos of Parker, the man, and a copy of his 1958 landmark paper on solar wind.

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