Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By Laverne Osborne

NASA's mission to 'touch the sun' starts tomorrow

NASA's mission to 'touch the sun' starts tomorrow

After that late September flyby, the Parker should make its first close approach to the sun on November 1 - the first of about two dozen solar passes and seven gravity assists from Venus. NASA specifically chose the rocket for this mission as the probe would require a considerable amount of thrust to be ejected out of Earth's gravitation pull and toward the sun.

The 65-minute window opened at 3:33 a.m., but the launch time was pushed back 20 minutes after minor issues with ground equipment before a mobile service tower could be rolled back from the rocket, and then concerns about sensor readings that delayed the start of fueling. But these findings are going to take a long time - first, the Parker probe will have to orbit around the sun, getting closer and closer, for as many as seven years.

United Launch Alliance is preparing to launch a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday morning.

It weighs a mere 635 kg. And it needs to be, because it takes an vast amount of energy to get to our final orbit around the Sun.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe will be the first spacecraft to "touch" the sun, hurtling through the sizzling solar atmosphere and coming within just 6 million kilometres (3.8 million miles) of the surface.

"The sun is full of mysteries", said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. According to parker, he will get approximately seven times closer to the sun than before.

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That heat shield is what takes a seven-year mission to the sun out of science fiction and makes it a reality. Protected by a sophisticated heat shield the probe is created to go closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft. While granting us life, the sun also has the power to disrupt spacecraft in orbit, and communications and electronics on Earth.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick. The shield will keep the temperature-sensitive instruments on board the spacecraft at a comfortable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

The probe is named after pioneering solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, who first theorized the existence of the solar wind.

Space scientists have spent decades trying to understand how energy moves through the corona and what drives the flow of charged particles that the sun continuously casts off.

These radioactive storms are so powerful they are able to knock out satellites, disrupt services such as communications and Global Positioning System, threaten aircraft and in even interfere with electricity supplies.

The U.S. got a glimpse of the sun's glowing, spiky crown, or corona, during last August's coast-to-coast total solar eclipse. Among other things, the spacecraft will carry a microchip with more than a million names on it. Sometime between August 11 and 23, the close of the launch period, these names and 1,400 pounds of solar protection and science equipment will begin their journey to the center of our solar system. That will let scientists match up the data other instruments collect with a visual image of solar phenomena like flares.

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