Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Begins Its Landmark Mission to the Sun

The mission costs £1.17billion The mission costs £1.17billion
Andrew Wong | 14 August, 2018, 23:15

The Parker Solar Probe will pass right through the sun's corona, where it will be within 4 million miles of the sun's surface.

The probe will reach a speed of 430,000 miles per hour around the sun, setting a record for the fastest manmade object.

And Nasa's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, said: "I'm in awe".

These explosions create space weather events that can pummel Earth with high energy particles, endangering astronauts, interfering with Global Positioning System and communications satellites and, at their worst, disrupting our power grid.

Saturday's planned departure date was foiled by last-minute technical problems but NASA pointed out that there was no better day for the launch of a mission to "touch the sun" than Sunday.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday.

"We're in for some learning for the next several years", said Eugene Parker, 91, the retired solar physicist after whom the spacecraft is named.

The probe will make its closest approach in 2024 when the next total solar eclipse is expected to be seen over the US, and with that, the spacecraft will be visible.

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Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven "gravity-assist" flybys of Venus. The second is how does a solar wind start? By better understanding the sun's life-giving and sometimes violent nature, Earthlings can better protect satellites and astronauts in orbit, and power grids on the ground, he noted.

A trio of first-stage boosters fired hydrogen-fueled engines to light up the night sky above Launch Complex 37, unleashing 2.1 million pounds of thrust to begin the probe's seven-year mission.

"We at NASA and the Launch Services Program are thrilled to be part of this mission".

When closest to the sun, the 4½-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shields will have to withstand temperatures close to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. "We're finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 - using a spacecraft that bears his name - and I can't wait to find out what discoveries we make". "The spacecraft will hurtle around the Sun at speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour". It remains unknown how these electrically charged particles pick up speed.

Speechless is not a word typically used to describe Nicky Fox, mission scientist for the Parker Solar Probe at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The solar probe is expected to gather more information about the sun than we've ever had access to before. "The energy of that (launch) vehicle, the enormous size, and when you realize how tiny the Parker Solar Probe satellite is, and you have this big vehicle around it, it's just mind boggling".

Now the University of Chicago professor has had the last laugh with the probe named after him - the first living person to be so honoured.

It was the third attempt to launch the Delta IV: initially, the rocket was to be launched on August 4 and after the transfer yesterday, August 11. "Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system".

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