Historic NASA mission will be first to 'touch the sun'

Historic NASA mission will be first to 'touch the sun'

United Launch Alliance is preparing to launch a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday morning. Each flyby will provide an orbit-shaping gravity boost, drawing it ever closer to the Sun and straight into the corona - the Sun's outermost atmosphere.

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).

"We're using Venus to help slow us down, to allow us to get into a new orbit", Young said.

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.

The Parker Solar Probe will break multiple records, starting literally when it launches on Saturday.

Through this mission, NASA is hoping to solve decades-old mysteries around what accelerates the solar winds that affect Earth and other planets. During its closest solar approaches, the spacecraft will hurtle through the corona at 690 kilometres an hour, setting a speed record.

The project was proposed in the year 1958 to a brand-new Nasa, and "60 years later, and it's becoming a reality", said project manager Andy Driesman, also of Johns Hopkins, which designed and built the spacecraft.

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This is the first NASA spacecraft to be named after someone still alive. The spacecraft is now scheduled to launch tomorrow (Aug. 11) at 3:33 a.m. (0733 GMT).

The Parker probe's final three orbits - in 2024 and 2025 - will be the closest.

Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel. And it needs to be, because it takes an vast amount of energy to get to our final orbit around the Sun.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the USA space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface.

A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. Ultimately, the more we can learn about the Sun, the better.

This is a phenomenon that has baffled NASA scientists because the sun's atmosphere "gets much, much hotter the farther it stretches from the sun's blazing surface".

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