NASA launches historic Parker Solar Probe to 'touch Sun'

NASA launches historic Parker Solar Probe to 'touch Sun'

This handout photo released by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back on August 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida - NASA postponed until August 12, 2018, the launch of the first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star's sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries.

Originally slated to fly in the small hours of Saturday morning, the Parker Solar Probe blasted off Sunday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 03:31 am EDT / 00:31 PT / 8.31 UMT.

Passing within 3.8 million miles of the sun's visible surface - well within the shimmering halo of the outer atmosphere, or corona - the spacecraft's heat shield will endure 2,500-degree heating while whipping past the star at a record 430,000 mph, fast enough to fly from NY to Tokyo in less than a minute.

A last-minute technical problem delayed the rocket's planned Saturday launch, with the countdown halted with just one minute, 55 seconds remaining.

It will reach Venus in October and will have its first solar encounter in November.

The mission called Parker Solar Probe (PSP), commenced after a 24-hour delay.

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails in getting it launched, to thinking about all the interesting things which I don't know yet and which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years, " Parker said on NASA TV.

This will be within 6 million kilometres of the sun's surface, closer than any other spacecraft has been before.

Nothing from Planet Earth has ever hit that kind of speed.

Family of man who stole and crashed plane 'shocked and devastated'
At one point, he apologizes and says he is a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose". "Never really knew it, until now", he added. No passengers were on board and there were no reports of injuries on the ground. "I was kinda hoping that was gonna be it.

"To me, it's still mind-blowing, " she said.

The car-sized probe will utilise Venus to try and achieve an orbit around the sun by helping to slow it down.

The corona holds the answers to many of scientists' outstanding questions about the Sun's activity and processes.

NASA hope the breakthrough journey will reveal why the sun's outer layer - the corona - is hotter than the surface.

"Wow, here we go!" "We've looked at it. But we have to go there".

Scientists have devised ways to ensure the automated and unmanned probe does not melt in the extreme heat and radiation.

Sensors will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times and it will correct itself if it ends up at the wrong angle. The Johns Hopkins flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, will be too far away to help. A voice could be heard saying: "A daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star". Yet the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said.

More than 1 million names are aboard the spacecraft, submitted last spring by space enthusiasts, as well as photos of Parker, the man, and a copy of his 1958 landmark paper on solar wind.

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