Nasa spacecraft heads to sun for closest look yet

Parker Solar Probe

NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched this morning

NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft destined to become the fastest man-made object ever as it gets closer to the sun than we've been before.

NASA will, on Sunday have another go at launching their historic unmanned Parker Solar Probe. Scientists aim to learn more about the mechanisms that power the solar wind of charged particles the sun sends into the solar system, creating aurorae on Earth and sometimes screwing with our tech.

The car-sized spacecraft will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere, about four million miles from its surface - and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, thanks to its innovative Thermal Protection System.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October, setting up its first solar encounter in November.

A worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade to fully recover from, experts have warned.

Scientists at the space agency were due to launch the probe yesterday - but it was called off due to "gaseous helium red pressure alarm".

More knowledge of solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

NASA's flight to sun delayed by last-minute technical issues
Thousands of people had gathered at Cape Canaveral to watch the take-off, which was initially due to take place at 4.38am local time.

It is said to endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times greater than that experienced on Earth.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Altogether, it will make 24 close approaches over the next seven years. We are ready. We have the flawless payload.

During its historic journey, the probe will jet past Venus at speeds of 430,000 miles per hour, the equivalent of flying from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

Eugene Parker is a University of Chicago professor emeritus in physics who first proposed the concept of the solar wind.

One of the reasons, scientists are sending the probe is the Sun's atmosphere and the weird property it exhibits, of being hotter than the surface of the sun itself.

Latest News