Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself

Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself

Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself

It is hoped the Parker probe will eventually get within 3.83 million miles of the sun, just four per cent of the total distance and closer than ever before.

Spectators lined roads and river banks overlooking Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to witness the fiery 3.31am departure of a $1.5 billion mission developed over six decades.

The first launch attempt on Saturday was postponed at the last minute due to technical problem related to a helium gas sensor on the rocket.

The spacecraft is protected from melting during its close shave with the Sun by a heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the vehicle, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season.

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"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.

"All I can say is, 'Wow, here we go, '" said Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named. It has been outfitted with a heat shield created to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) at its closest pass. The extreme pull of the sun's gravity will then accelerate the probe up to insane speeds of as much as 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 km/h) as it grazes the edge of the most powerful object in our corner of the galaxy.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the United States, said in an earlier statement.

NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

Finally, after two firings of the second-stage engine, the Parker Solar Probe and its Northrup Grumman solid-fuel upper stage were released from the Delta 4.

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NASA will, on Sunday have another go at launching their historic unmanned Parker Solar Probe.

"Tested to withstand up to 1,650 degrees Celsius, the TPS can handle any heat the Sun can send its way, keeping nearly all instrumentation safe", said NASA. Nothing from planet Earth has ever gone that fast.

By the time Parker gets to its 22nd, 23rd and 24th orbits of the sun in 2024 and 2025, it will be even deeper into the corona and travelling at a record 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 kph). The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

A better understanding of the sun's life-giving and sometimes violent nature could also enable earthlings to better protect satellites and astronauts in orbit, along with the power grids so vital to today's technology-dependent society, said Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's science mission chief.

He proposed the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago.

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