Nasa blasts off historic probe to 'touch Sun'

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 14, 2018

As Parker and thousands of others watched, a Delta IV Heavy rocket carried the probe aloft, thundering into the clear, star-studded sky on three pillars of fire that lit up the middle-of-the-night darkness.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October, setting up its first solar encounter in November. The Parker Solar Probe is NASA's first ever named after a living person.

By the time Parker gets to its 22nd, 23rd and 24th orbits of the sun in 2024 and 2025, it will be even deeper into the corona and travelling at a record 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 kph).

The Parker Probe is named after Dr. Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist given credit behind the solar wind theory in the late 1950's.

"It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind", Parker said earlier this week. Eastern on Sunday after an initial launch attempt on Saturday was scrubbed because of a last-minute technical glitch.

NASA rocket Delta IV launched the Parker Solar Probe out into space to begin its historic journey to the sun. This followed earlier trouble in the countdown.

Altogether, it will make 24 close approaches to the sun during the seven-year, $1.5 billion undertaking.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up to our dreams", said project scientist Nicola Fox of John Hopkins University.

The car-sized probe is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

The probe won't actually land on the sun, but it will make history - getting closer than any other man-made object.

Learning more about the solar wind also will help scientists better predict the effects of solar storms and the impact of the solar wind on Earth's magnetic field, wreaking havoc with communications, power grids and navigation.

"This mission truly marks humanity's first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

It is said to endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times greater than that experienced on Earth.

While the Parker Solar Probe will travel through a space with temperatures of several million degrees, the surface of the heat shield that faces the Sun will only get heated to about 1,400 degree Celsius.

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

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit. He came away impressed, saying it was like looking at the Taj Mahal for years in photos and then beholding "the real thing" in India.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours - the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

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