NASA’s Parker spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe into Space

NASA The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe into Space

NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth's space environment.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October.

"The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold", Nasa, said in a statement. It eventually will get within 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) of the surface in the years ahead, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible. NASA needed the mighty 23-story rocket, plus a third stage, to get the diminutive Parker probe - the size of a small vehicle and well under a ton - racing toward the sun. The visible surface of the sun has a temperature of about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

To handle the heat it has been covered with a special 4.5 inch thick carbon-composite shield capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C.

Yanping Guo, who designed the mission trajectory, said: "The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto".

Scientists expect the $1.5-billion mission to shed light not only on our own dynamic sun, but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars - and other types of stars - out there in the Milky Way and beyond.

"We are going to be in an area that is so exciting, where solar wind - we believe - will be accelerating", said NASA planetary science division director Jim Green.

It is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone still alive.

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona
NASA Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona

One of those watching the historic moment was Dr Eugene Parker, the now 91-year-old scientist who first suggested the possibility of solar winds in 1958 and who the craft is named after. The launch lit the night sky at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT).

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said.

"All I have to say is wow, here we go".

The delicate instrument comes equipped with an array of instruments and tools which will scan the Sun for solar winds and magnetic fields. That's about enough to run a kitchen blender.

"The outer sun-facing side of the shield will reach 2,500 Fahrenheit at closest approach to the sun". That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

Over the course of seven years, Parker will make 24 loops around our star to study the physics of the corona, the place where much of the important activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 6.16 million kilometers of its surface during a seven-year mission.

'The next battlefield': Trump wants Space Force by 2020
Finally, the proposal recommends creating a Space Operations Force consisting of space technology and warfare experts. But support for the plan within Congress and the military establishment has been far from unanimous.

Latest News