NASA shifts launch of spacecraft to the Sun

NASA shifts launch of spacecraft to the Sun

NASA has delayed the launch of a probe which will make a series of unprecedented orbits of the sun.

"Launch teams will attempt to launch on Sunday morning", NASA said in a tweet on Saturday.

NASA's car-sized robe was scheduled to launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a 65-minute launch window.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.

Once on its way, the Parker probe will venture closer to our star than any other spacecraft.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

It will get more than seven times closer than the current record holder for a close solar pass, a record set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.

"We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

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"Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its risky journey".

Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel. When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 688,000kmh - making it the fastest human-made object.

Image: The probe's orbits will gradually take it nearer to the sun.

Engineers are taking utmost caution with the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, which Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's science mission directorate, described as one of the agency's most "strategically important missions".

If scientists understand more about solar activity, they could use it to predict large solar eruptions that pose a threat to satellites orbiting the Earth.

Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

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

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