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How PIO physicist laid foundation for NASA's mission to 'touch' the Sun

How PIO physicist laid foundation for NASA's mission to 'touch' the Sun

After launching on the Delta-IV Heavy rocket - which sounds cool and probably is, yeah, fairly cool - at 03:31 local time in Florida (07:31 GMT) on Sunday, Nasa confirmed the flight trajectory "looked good" and that the probe had successfully separated from the rocket.

A NASA spacecraft zoomed toward the sun Sunday on an unprecedented quest to get closer to our star than anything ever sent before.

In particular, it is hoped to give scientists a greater understanding of solar wind storms that have the potential to knock out the power on Earth.

"So it's of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict this space weather much like we predict weather here on Earth".

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.

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 car-sized observatory is created to endure temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it flies within 4 million miles of the sun's surface. But an 8-foot-wide heat shield out front - only 4.5 inches thick - should keep the probe's electronics safe at room temperature. "Congratulations to our team and mission partners, we are proud to launch this exceptional spacecraft that will provide invaluable scientific information benefiting all of humankind".

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.




NASA on Sunday, August 12, blasted off its first-ever spaceship to explore the Sun, the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of risky solar storms.

Greeting the launch - on the back of a mammoth Delta-IV Heavy rocket - NASA tweeted: "3-2-1... and we have liftoff of Parker #SolarProbe atop @ULAlaunch's #DeltaIV Heavy rocket". Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things, which I don't know yet, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.

Speaking after the launch, the 91-year-old told NASA TV: "It's a whole new phase and it's going to be fascinating throughout".

Parker Solar Probe's solar arrays can produce 388 watts of power, depending on configuration.

"All I can say is "Wow, here we go, we're in for some learning over the next several years", he said when asked how he felt.

With a communication lag time of 16 minutes each way, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams", Fox said. "The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it".

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