Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet

NASA spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet

The probe will be controlled from the Mission Operations Centre based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL), which is where NASA handles its unmanned missions.

The probe's main goal will be to learn the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere surrounding the sun.

NASA has postponed the launch of its first-ever probe to the sun due to a last-minute technical problem. The mission is now scheduled for no earlier than Sunday, Aug. 12, at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) during a window that will remain open for 65 minutes.

As the Parker Solar Probe probe orbits the sun, it will experience extreme radiation and temperatures as high as 1,377C (2,510F) - close to the melting point of steel.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).

By better understanding the basic science of solar wind - how the sun's atmospheric particles accelerate and interact - scientists hope to more accurately model larger, more complex solar phenomena, and improve space weather prediction models.

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NASA says a red pressure alarm for the gaseous helium system went off, prompting the launch controller to order, "Hold, hold, hold".

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Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms and disrupt Earth's power grid. He's now 91 and eager to see the solar probe soar.

It is created to withstand heat of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, speeds of 700,000 kilometres per hour and a journey that will last seven years. "Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to almost half the speed of light, and we don't know why".

The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described in 1958. The agency is now targeting Sunday for the launch of the spacecraft which is created to go all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.

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