Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun'

James Marshall
August 12, 2018

A NASA spacecraft has taken off on an historic mission towards the Sun in a delayed launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The USD 1.5 billion mission will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona.

It will be the fastest manmade moving object in history and NASA hope it will come within 3.83 million miles of the sun's surface, making 24 loops of the star over seven years. Its data promises to crack longstanding mysteries about the Sun's behaviour.

These solar outbursts are poorly understood, but pack the potential to wipe out power to millions of people.

Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI, said: 'The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth'.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

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. "Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun", explained Dr Nicky Fox, the British-born project scientist who is affiliated to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

It is travelling on board the Delta-IV Heavy rocket, which will hurl the probe into the inner Solar System.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October, setting up its first solar encounter in November. "We know the questions we want to answer".

It is the first space craft to be named after a living person - astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described solar wind in 1958.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER