Monday, 20 August, 2018

Unmanned NASA craft takes off on mission towards Sun

Parker Solar Probe launch NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star
Sandra Phillips | 12 August, 2018, 13:36

NASA on Sunday launched its ambitious Parker Solar Probe a day later than it was scheduled to after multiple checks exhausted the launch window.

United States space agency Nasa has launched its mission to send a satellite closer to the Sun than any before. This followed earlier trouble in the countdown.

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'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".

It is set to fly into the Sun's corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) of the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.

If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

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The probe will use Venus's gravity over the course of it's 93million-miles journey over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to "touch the sun", as Nasa calls it.

"We are ready. We have the flawless payload".

The spacecraft, which will plunge into the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield.

It is the first space craft to be named after a living person - astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described solar wind in 1958. "We know the questions we want to answer".

Parker said last week that he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

No human-made vehicle has ever come so close - leading the American space agency to claim the probe will "touch" the sun. "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

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