Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Nasa launches first ever solar probe to 'touch the sun'

Nasa launches first ever solar probe to 'touch the sun'

But Sunday gave way to complete success.

Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles blasted out in the control centre moments after the team burst into applause at the successful lift-off.

It is on an unprecedented quest that will take it straight through the edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, just 3.8 million miles from the sun's surface.

It will be the fastest human-made object with speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour, able to survive million degree temperatures, orbiting the sun just 4 million miles from its surface, after a 90 million-mile trip, to get the first measurements of the sun's energy.

"The only way we can do that is to finally go up and touch the sun", the $1.5 billion mission's project scientist, Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, told reporters in advance of today's launch. She urged it to "go touch the sun!"

The probe was borne into the heavens atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The mission, that costs about $ 1.5 bn has been over five decades in the making, and is unique for bringing a space probe closer to the sun than any man made object.

The spacecraft will face heat and radiation "like no spacecraft before it", the agency said.

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NASA hopes the probe - which was named in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago professor who successfully predicted the existence of solar wind in 1958 - will help scientists crack some of the sun's greatest mysteries, including the secret of the corona's incredibly high temperatures and the origins of and the mechanism behind the acceleration of solar wind. That will set up the first solar encounter in November.

At closest approach, PSP will hurtle around the sun at approximately 430,000 miles per hour.

In this Thursday, August 9, 2018, astrophysicist Eugene Parker attends a news conference about the Parker Solar Probe named after him, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Scientists aim to learn more about the mechanisms that power the solar wind of charged particles the sun sends into the solar system, creating aurorae on Earth and sometimes screwing with our tech.

The $1.5bn (£1.17bn) project is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

"This space weather has direct influence, not always positive, on our technology in space, our spacecraft, it disrupts our communications, it creates a hazardous environment for astronauts and in the most extreme cases can actually affect our power grids here on the Earth", said Alex Young, associate director of NASA's heliophysics program.

More knowledge of solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

It is said the data gathered by the car-sized probe will "revolutionise" our understanding of the star, which has a huge impact on Earth.

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