NASA Launches Historic Probe To The Sun

Pat Wise
August 16, 2018

The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, on a seven-year mission.

After St Francis', Dr Fox studied at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, the University of Surrey and then Imperial College again, before moving to the United States to join NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, near Washington DC. The spacecraft's project scientist Nicky Fox says the mission will help scientists unlock mysteries of the sun.

"There's nothing like a rocket launch live", said Parker, now 91, who watched the launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The unprecedented sun-skimming probe that lifted off from the USA is set to study the "solar winds" proposed in the paper by Dr Eugene Newman Parker, who has now become the first living scientist to have mission named after him.

"He gave me a running commentary through the entire thing and now takes full credit for my interest in space", she said.

The incredibly resilient vessel, vaguely shaped like a lightbulb the size of a small auto, was launched early in the morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

While at the sun, the spacecraft will experience temperatures up to 2,500 F. Only a 4.5 inch heat shield and water cooling systems will protect the spacecraft and its four science instruments from the intense heat of the sun.

"This mission truly marks humanity's first visit to a star", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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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.

Back in 1958, when the 31-year-old Parker suggested that the charged particles streamed continuously from the Sun and fill up the space, the scientific community refused to believe him.

According to the NASA website, the Parker Solar Probe's path through the corona - the Sun's outer atmosphere - will allow it to observe the acceleration of the solar wind that Parker predicted, just as it makes a critical transition from slower than the speed of sound to faster than it. The peak of its trajectory will be 3.8 million miles from the sun's edge. "Even I still go, 'Really?"

Protected by a revolutionary new carbon heat shield and other high-tech wonders, the spacecraft will zip past Venus in October.

This small instrument looking around the heat shield is a Faraday cup, and is a direct descendant of the first instrument to measure the existence of the supersonic solar wind expansion.

This will be the first time scientists are getting an up-close look at any star.

While "only the size of a car", the satellite is tough enough to withstand temperatures of 1,300C and to travel at speeds of up to 430,000mph, the newspaper adds.

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