Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

NASA shifts launch of spacecraft to the Sun

NASA shifts launch of spacecraft to the Sun

The early morning launch countdown was halted with just one-minute, 55 seconds remaining.

When it does launch, the Parker Solar Probe will get as close as 3.83 million miles to the sun's surface.

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

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 deg F (1,371 deg C).

"We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

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"The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles", explained NASA.

"Eight long years of hard work by countless engineers and scientists is finally paying off", Adam Szabo, the mission scientist for Parker Solar Probe at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

"Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its unsafe journey". "Parker Solar Probe has been one of our most challenging missions to date".

Image: The probe has been fitted with material to help it withstand extreme heats.

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.

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NASA stated: "Parker Solar Probe will provide unprecedented information about our sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system to affect Earth and other worlds". At those speeds, it will reach the sun by November and should beam data back by the end of the year.

"And it needs to be, because it takes an huge amount of energy to get to our final orbit around the Sun", Driesman added.

The probe will help scientists understand more about the nature of the sun by taking measurements of solar winds, a flow of ionised gases.

Among the questions NASA is seeking to answer are why the corona is hotter than the sun's surface, as well as why the atmospheres is continually expanding and continually accelerating away from the star.

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", said project scientist Nicky Fox from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

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