NASA Parker Solar Probe to launch from Cape Canaveral

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The project, with a $1.5bn (€1.3bn) price tag, is the first major space mission under Nasa's "Living With a Star" programme. Parker's theory of solar wind, created by charged particles from the sun, was later proven with data from NASA's Mariner 2 mission to Venus. Watch live in the player above.

Saturday marks the day we finally send a spacecraft to the sun. The answer lies in the same fact that keeps Earth from plunging into the Sun: Our planet is traveling very fast - about 67,000 miles per hour - nearly entirely sideways relative to the Sun.

On each close approach to the sun, the probe will sample the solar wind, study the sun's corona, and provide close-up observations from around the star. In space terms, that's practically shaking hands.

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). Its launch window will open at 3.48am (eastern daylight time, or 7.48am Greenwich mean time) on Saturday 11 August. The spacecraft will make a total of seven orbits around Venus. The probe will orbit around the Sun 24 times, its closest point ultimately being 3.8 million miles.

Image: The spacecraft can withstand enormous heat.

The memory card also contains photos of Dr. Parker and his groundbreaking 1958 scientific paper on solar wind.

"In a lot of ways, it's an ending, the spacecraft is going into space", said Parker Solar Probe Engineer Betsy Congdon. Either the magnetic field allows for large energy conductions between the surface of the Sun and the corona, and when large energy discharges occur, they heat the plasma, or the heat conduction is produced by oscillations of this same magnetic field which will heat the plasma particles in the corona.

These radioactive storms are so powerful they are able to knock out satellites, disrupt services such as communications and Global Positioning System, threaten aircraft and in even interfere with electricity supplies. In March, members of the public were invited to be a part in the historic mission by submitting their names to be placed on a memory card that the spacecraft will take into space. "We're actually making our first pass of the sun in November, getting our first data back by hopefully December", he said.

"For scientists like myself, the reward of the long, hard work will be the unique set of measurements returned by Parker", said Szabo. After launch, the spacecraft will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere - the corona - closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone.

Stay tuned - Parker is about to take flight.

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