NASA’s new spacecraft ready to launch to ‘TOUCH THE SUN’ | Science | News

In a Tweet, NASA said the Parker Solar Probe is set to take off on the groundbreaking mission on Saturday to “touch the Sun”.

It will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.

Dr Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: “We’ve been studying the Sun for decades, and now we’re finally going to go where the action is.

“The Sun’s energy is always flowing past our world and even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are beautiful – but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere.

“We don’t have a strong understanding of the mechanisms that drive that wind towards us, and that’s what we’re heading out to discover.”

The probe – which is approximately the size of a car – will face scorching heat on its journey and is designed to withstand extreme conditions.

It features new technology including a heat shield which allows the probe to operate at room temperature.

It will travel at 430,000mph or 125 miles a second.

The mission is named after physicist Eugene Parker who published a scientific paper in 1958 theorising the existence of the solar wind.

It is the first NASA mission to be named after a living person.

Thomas Zurbuchen, from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said: “By studying our star, we can learn not only more about the Sun.

“We can also learn more about all the other stars throughout the galaxy, the universe and even life’s beginnings.”

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