Nasa spacecraft heads to sun for closest look yet

Nasa spacecraft heads to sun for closest look yet

Saturday's launch countdown was halted with just one-minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV (four) rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the Parker Solar Probe. The Parker Solar Probe is completely dependent on its directional heat shield for survival.

It will zip past Venus in six weeks and make a first rendezvous with the Sun a further six weeks after that.

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October - a manoeuvre a bit like a handbrake turn - that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus's gravity to trim the spacecraft's orbit tighter around the Sun.

On Sunday, NASA launched a bold mission to fly directly into the sun's atmosphere, with a spacecraft named the Parker Solar Probe, after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

Scientists hope the probe will help them to solve some of the Sun's mysteries.

"The mission will unlock mysteries of the corona, including why it's so much hotter than the surface of the sun which is about 10,000 Farenheit", Brown said. NASA launched the spacecraft aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket at 3:31AM Eastern this morning (August 12th) and confirmed that the vessel was healthy at 5:33AM. "But this is not what happens on the sun".

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The spacecraft's path through the corona will allow it to observe the acceleration of the solar wind that makes a critical transition from slower than the speed of sound to faster than it. These events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth - including power grids and radiation exposure on airline flights, NASA said.

The Parker solar probe is named after Eugene Parker, in recognition of his contribution to the study of the sun and of solar wind in particular. Parker Solar Probe and its instruments will be protected from the Sun's heat by a 4.5-inch-thick, carbon-carbon composite heat shield. In the Frisbee's shadow, the spacecraft's body and most of its instruments will stay a comfortable 85 degrees. But just above it, in the corona, the temperature shoots up to several million degrees.

"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done awesome things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN.

And I know what you're thinking. "And it really is the same". The 91-year-old emeritus professor will be present at the probe's launch. Eventually Parker will dip down to just 3.8 million miles from the sun's surface. That's nearly 10 times closer than Mercury gets, and seven times closer than any previous probe.

A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May. Parker also described the problem of the heating of the corona, or the sun's atmosphere.

"I suspect it's going to be complicated, and I suspect some of us will argue with each other as to exactly what's going on", he said before the launch. "All the configurations are already over, we are now in the process of assembling the engineering model prototype and then the testing stage will begin", Banerjee, who is part of the Aditya L1 mission, said. As you might guess, NASA is relying on automation to make this work.

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