NASA launches mission to take closer look at Sun

August 13, 2018 09:07
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to the Sun at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday. Photo: NASA handout via Reuters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US government space agency, has launched a space probe that will go closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before.

The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small car, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 am Sunday, on a seven-year mission, Reuters reports.

It is set to fly into the Sun’s corona within 3.8 million miles of the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

The craft, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will endure extreme heat while zooming through the solar corona to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere that gives rise to the solar winds, the report said, citing a NASA announcement.

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth.

NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.

The project, with a US$1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under NASA’s Living With a Star program, Reuters noted.

The probe has been outfitted with a heat shield designed to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit at its closest pass to the Sun.

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