NASA, ULA launch Parker Solar Probe on historic journey to touch sun

The Parker probe will make 24 close approaches to our star during the seven-year $1.5 billion journey

NASA on Sunday blasted off its first-ever spaceship to explore the Sun, the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of risky solar storms.

Embarking on a mission that scientists have been dreaming of since the Sputnik era, a NASA spacecraft hurtled Sunday toward the sun on a quest to unlock some of its mysteries by getting closer than any object sent before.

Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida Aug. 12 to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission.

"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. For seven years it will circle the Sun, taking readings that may explain, for instance, what heats the Sun's Corona up to 2,000,000-degrees! A second attempt Sunday went off at the opening of the launch window.

"This mission truly marks humanity's first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe", said in a statement Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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A Reuters report said the spacecraft, which is about the size of a small vehicle - it weighs a mere 1,400 pounds - is set to fly into the Sun's corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) of the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

This is because "in space, the temperature can be thousands of degrees without providing significant heat to a given object or feeling hot".

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. "All I have to say is wow, here we go". The launch was performed by the program "living with a star", which was developed by the scientific Department in conjunction with the NASA space flight Center name Goddard in Greenbelt (Maryland).

"Now I have to turn from really biting my nails to thinking about the interesting things [to come] that I don't know yet, which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five, six, or seven years", he said. But at a certain distance from the Sun to this signal is added brightness, maybe from the particles of hydrogen outside the Solar system, interacting with the far reaches of the solar wind. Its first solar flyby in early November will see it pass within 15 million miles of the Sun's surface.

While the Parker Solar Probe will travel through a space with temperatures of several million degrees, the surface of the heat shield that faces the Sun will only get heated to about 1,400 degree Celsius.

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