NASA's Ambitious Mission To 'Touch The Sun' Launches From Cape Canaveral

NASA запустило новый зонд для исследования Солнца

NASA on Sunday successfully launched the Parker Solar Probe, the U.S. space agency's historic small car-size probe to "touch the Sun", from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of Sun, the US-based space agency said.

Roughly the size of a small auto, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m., EDT, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Additionally, the third stage includes the STAR 49BV solid rocket motor, which is created to place the spacecraft into its final trajectory. In order to withstand what will no doubt be unfathomable temperatures, Parker has been supplied with a revolutionary heat shield which should stop the craft from burning up.

By the time the probe gets to its 22nd, 23rd and 24th orbits of the sun in 2024 and 2025, it will be even deeper into the corona and traveling at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour.

The Parker Solar Probe's launch marked a special milestone for one solar scientist: Eugene Parker.

Sunday's flight marked the 129th successful flight for ULA, and the 10th for the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

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"Throughout its seven-year mission, the probe will swoop through the Sun's atmosphere 24 times, getting closer to our star than any spacecraft has gone before".

The spacecraft was named after 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who proposed the existence of solar wind 60 years ago. As NASA notes, this marks its first mission named for a living person. It eventually will get within 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) of the sun's surface, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible. These solar winds, if big enough, can rattle the Earth's magnetic field and disrupt satellites, communications and power grids.

It was the first rocket launch ever witnessed by Parker, a retired University of Chicago professor. In 1958, when Parker explained his concept of streaming particles from the Sun there were no takers.

"When you get below T-minus four minutes, you're committed to going", Andrew Driesman, project manager for the probe at the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told The Baltimore Sun. "We at NASA and the Launch Services Program are thrilled to be part of this mission".

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

But that's not the only record being broken here, the probe will also be breaking speed records by traveling at a whopping 430,000 miles per hour as it completes 24 orbits of our galaxy's star.

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