Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

NASA’s flight to sun delayed due to technical problem

NASA’s flight to sun delayed due to technical problem

As of August 12, 2018, however, NASA, together with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), is changing that with the launch of the Parker Solar Probe that will hopefully unravel the mysteries of the sun in the next seven years. "If the Parker Solar Probe can reach below the Alfvén point, then we can say the spacecraft has entered the solar atmosphere and touched the Sun".

"Three, two, one, and liftoff!" said a NASA commentator as the Parker Solar Probe lit up the dark night sky aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT).

The spacecraft will fly straight through the edges of the outer solar atmosphere, or cornea, making it the first spacecraft to fly that close to the sun.

The unmanned spacecraft's mission is to get closer than any human-made object ever to the center of our solar system, plunging into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.

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.

Parker's equations predicted the solar wind, but six decades later, scientists can't precisely explain the physics driving its acceleration or the corona's extreme heating. It has been outfitted with a heat shield created to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) at its closest pass.

"The only way we can do that is to finally go up and touch the sun", said project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University.

The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 11 centimetres thick, enabling the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star. It screams past Earth at a million miles per hour, and disturbances can cause disruptive space weather that impacts our planet.

INDEED there is. The European Space Agency is now finalising - in Britain - the Solar Orbiter which is also expected to last seven years and will also use gravity assists from Venus to take it into an orbit around the sun.

Without protection, the solar panels - which use energy from the very star being studied to power the spacecraft - can overheat.

"Wow, here we go".

This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living person.

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. Now technically, the spacecraft won't actually touch the surface of the sun; it will remain about 4 million miles away from the sun's surface.

"I'll bet you 10 bucks it works", Parker said.

"By studying our star, we can learn not only more about the Sun", said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA's headquarters.

The probe will reach a speed of 430,000 miles per hour around the sun, setting a record for the fastest manmade object. It wasn't until four years later, when a spacecraft bound for Venus found traces of energized particles streaming through space, that Parker's theory started to gain acceptance.

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