NASA launches historic Parker Solar Probe to 'touch Sun'
NASA launches historic Parker Solar Probe to 'touch Sun'
The Parker Solar Probe is the first mission of its kind
12 August, 2018, 21:56
On the final three orbits, PSP flies to within 3.8 million miles of the sun's surface - more than seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976, and about a tenth as close as Mercury, which is, on average, about 36 million miles from the Sun.
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hour (692,000 kilometers per hour).
Scientists at the space agency were due to launch the probe yesterday - but it was called off due to "gaseous helium red pressure alarm".
"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are handsome ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".
After all, the spacecraft is named in his honor.
"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done wonderful things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN. The first data download from the Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December after the probe reaches its first close approach of the sun in November.
"To me, it's still mind-blowing", she said.
NASA on Sunday launched a $1.5 billion spacecraft toward the Sun on a historic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of unsafe solar storms.
"There's nothing like a rocket launch live", said Parker, now 91, who watched the launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years.
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But Sunday's bid "went off like clockwork", said NASA launch manager Omar Baez.
"What's so cool about all of this is hanging out with Parker and seeing his emotion", Zurbuchen said, adding that Parker went from being excited about the launch to being excited about the science to come.
Over the next few weeks, Parker Solar Probe will run through a series of tests to ensure that its four instrument suites are working properly.
"All I have to say is wow, here we go". By better understanding the sun's life-giving and sometimes violent nature, Earthlings can better protect satellites and astronauts in orbit, and power grids on the ground, he noted.
One of the reasons, scientists are sending the probe is the Sun's atmosphere and the weird property it exhibits, of being hotter than the surface of the sun itself.
"We are thrilled with the launch and humbled to have been entrusted with this mission", Tory Bruno, ULA's President and CEO told Space.com following the launch.
"I'm just waiting for the data".
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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