NASA just launched a historic mission to touch the sun

На краю Солнечной системы обнаружили нечто невероятное

Called Parker Solar Probe, NASA's research tool successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket and is already en route towards its encounter with the solar corona.

Roughly the size of a small vehicle, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m., EDT, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"Throughout its seven-year mission, the probe will swoop through the Sun's atmosphere 24 times, getting closer to our star than any spacecraft has gone before". In order to withstand what will no doubt be unfathomable temperatures, Parker has been supplied with a revolutionary heat shield which should stop the craft from burning up. It was the first time NASA named a spacecraft after someone still alive.

But that was her reaction in the wee hours today (Aug. 12) as she watched NASA's Parker Solar Probe launch on an unprecedented mission to the sun. On its very first brush with the sun, it will come within 15.5 million miles (25 million kilometers), easily beating the current record of 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) set by NASA's Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.

Parker will be subject to temperatures in excess of 1,371 degrees Celsius, but if the heat shield does as intended, this will feel closer to 29C for the important instruments aboard the probe.

A highly advanced heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick was devised to keep the probe from melting.

It will fly directly through the Sun's atmosphere, as close as 3,8-million miles from its surface, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it.

На краю Солнечной системы обнаружили нечто невероятное
Here comes the Sun - at 700000km an hour

The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible. He proposed the existence of solar wind, a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting off the sun, 60 years ago.

The probe is the first NASA mission named after a living person.

Among the mysteries scientists hope to solve: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface, which is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 degrees Celsius)?

"As we got closer to the countdown and progressively closer to lift-off, things get a little more stressful, a little more exciting", said Pinkine.

After second stage main engine cutoff and separation, the Parker Solar Probe separated from the third stage, provided by Northrup Grumman. "We've accomplished something that decades ago, lived exclusively in the realm of science fiction", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"Tested to withstand up to 1,650 degrees Celsius, the TPS can handle any heat the Sun can send its way, keeping nearly all instrumentation safe", said NASA.

NASA spacecraft hurtles toward the sun
It'll fly just over 6 million km from the surface - protected from the searing temperatures by a revolutionary new heat shield. It also marks ULA's sixth launch in 2018 and the 129 successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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