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

Parker Solar Probe

The Parker Solar Probe is the first mission of its kind

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.

A NASA spacecraft has taken off on an historic mission towards the Sun in a delayed launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are handsome ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

Nasa has launched a satellite that will fly closer to the sun than any of its predecessors.

The Parker Solar Probe lifted off on the Delta IV Heavy rocket a day late, after a dramatic delay on Saturday saw lift-off halted with two minutes to go.

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NASA hopes the probe - which was named in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago professor who successfully predicted the existence of solar wind in 1958 - will help scientists crack some of the sun's greatest mysteries, including the secret of the corona's incredibly high temperatures and the origins of and the mechanism behind the acceleration of solar wind. The launch lit the night sky at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT). "We're in for some learning over the next several years", he said as he watched the lift-off.

Over the next seven years, there will be 24 close approaches to the sun.

Speaking after the launch, the 91-year-old told NASA TV: "It's a whole new phase and it's going to be fascinating throughout".

The rocket smoothly accelerated as it consumed propellant and lost weight, powering out of the thick lower atmosphere in spectacular fashion.

Finally, after two firings of the second-stage engine, the Parker Solar Probe and its Northrup Grumman solid-fuel upper stage were released from the Delta 4.

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Forty-three minutes after launch, the spacecraft jettisoned the spent upper stage and began flying on its own.

It is due tol fly past Venus in October, which will set up the first solar encounter in November. Seven Venus flybys are planned over the seven-year mission to fine-tune the trajectory, setting up the close-in aim points.

It will be the fastest human-made object with speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour, able to survive million degree temperatures, orbiting the sun just 4 million miles from its surface, after a 90 million-mile trip, to get the first measurements of the sun's energy.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams, " Fox said. "In fact, one of the key things about our early orbits is we're actually just at this sort of sweet spot. over the same area of the sun for many, many days, allowing us to do some really incredible science on our very first flyby".

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