NASA Prepare Launch Of Probe Which Will ‘Touch The Sun’

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

NASA's probe is named for Parker, making it the first time the agency has named a mission for a living person.

Less than two years after Parker's paper was published, his theory of solar wind was confirmed by satellite observations. The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed "the bravest little instrument", is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to "scoop up samples" of the sun's atmosphere, according to Justin Kasper, mission principal investigator and professor of climate, space sciences and engineering at the University of MI.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. NASA is sending a spacecraft straight into the sun's glittering crown, an atmospheric region so hot and harsh any normal visitor would wither.

NASA counted down Friday to the launch of a $1.5 billion spacecraft that aims to plunge into the Sun's sizzling atmosphere and become humanity's first mission to explore a star. If you were able to catch the solar eclipse in August 2017, you may have had a glimpse of the corona peeking out from behind the moon-it's that glowing, amorphous ring of filaments.

"Eventually, the spacecraft will run out of propellant", said Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

Parker's 8-foot heat shield is just 4½ inches thick.

The Space Agency says the probe will travel up to 430,000 miles per hour and have to withstand temperatures near 2,500 degrees. "The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before". As one scientist notes, this is a shield Captain America would envy.

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After launch, the spacecraft will head toward Venus, whose gravity will bend its path into the correct orbit.

Before arriving at the sun, Parker will make seven Venus flybys in seven years, using the planet's gravity to get closer to the sun with each flyby.

We're talking within 3.8 million miles of the sun's surface, which sounds like a lot until you consider it's 25 times closer than Earth, which sits 93 million miles away, and 10 times closer than Mercury, which is 36 million miles from the sun. Helios 2 got within 27 million miles of the sun in 1976. 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.

"NASA was planning to send a mission to the solar corona for decades, however, we did not have the technology that could protect a spacecraft and its instruments from the heat", said Szabo.

The spacecraft will hit 430,000 miles per hour in the corona at closest approach. ULA has delivered more than 125 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of the solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation. For example, why it's outer corona is 300 times hotter than its centre. During this mission, he will measure and study the movement of high energy particles near the sun. Solar physicist Eugene Parker first predicted the existence of this stream of high-energy particles, known as the solar wind, 60 years ago. While the Sun-facing side simmers at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, behind the shield the spacecraft will be a cozy 85 degrees Fahrenheit. United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket is providing the muscle.

"This is a piece of heliophysics science we all really wanted for a long time, since the 1950s", Stuart Bale, a UC Berkeley professor of physics who is one of four principal investigators for the mission, told NASA. "At my age, it gets fatiguing". In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Parker noted from a publicity standpoint, "it absolutely wipes out everything else" in his career.