LIFT OFF: Launch of NASA's Parker Solar Probe a success

NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star

NASA on Sunday launched its ambitious Parker Solar Probe a day later than it was scheduled to after multiple checks exhausted the launch window.

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 first pass by the sun, at a distance of about 15 million miles - three times closer than any previous spacecraft - is expected in November.

"The spacecraft will provide unprecedented information about our sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system to affect Earth and other worlds", explained Nasa in a statement.

The mission will last 6 years and 11 months, and in that time the Parker probe will orbit the sun 24 times.

"Until you actually go there and touch the sun, you really can't answer these questions", said Project Scientist Nicola Fox.

The probe will reach tremendous speeds as it orbits the sun.

The measurements and imaging captured by the Parker Solar Probe will "revolutionise our understanding of the corona and the Sun-Earth connection", Nasa revealed.

These poorly understood solar outbursts could potentially wipe out power to millions of people.

Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

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Learning more about the solar wind also will help scientists better predict the effects of solar storms and the impact of the solar wind on Earth's magnetic field, wreaking havoc with communications, power grids and navigation.

A worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade to fully recover from, experts have warned.

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

"We are ready. We have the flawless payload".

"The unique requirements of this mission made the Delta IV Heavy the ideal launch vehicle to deliver Parker Solar Probe into orbit with the highest precision", said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said on Saturday that Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community", and called the probe one of NASA most "strategically important" missions.

The spacecraft, which will plunge into the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield.

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

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours - the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

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