Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

At that moment, the space agency's Parker Solar Probe, Nasa's historic mission to touch the Sun, will have its first opportunity to lift off.

The car-sized probe, which will fly closer to the sun than any other man-made object, is set to blast off at 3:33am eastern daylight time (8:33am BST) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 11.

The $1.5-billion, car-sized spacecraft is created to provide a close look at the sun's atmosphere - what astronomers call the corona - to answer enduring questions about this ultra-hot region of our nearest star."We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", project scientist Nicola Fox of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, said in a written statement.

Over the next seven years, as it circles the sun, the probe will wrap around Venus seven times, each time slowing down and swooping closer to the sun. The spacecraft and its suite of delicate instruments will be protected from the sun's extreme heat by a carbon fiber heat shield. While the shield will be facing temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft will be at a toasty but tolerable 85 degrees.

Since the mission was named in his honor a year ago, NASA has offered Parker special behind-the-scenes access to the spacecraft carrying his name. "To send it into such brutal conditions is highly ambitious", said Nicola Fox, a project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory. "We know the questions we want to answer".

The spacecraft will hit 690,000 kph in the corona at closest approach.

Parker, now 91, recalled that at first, some people did not believe in his theory.

Following the launch the spacecraft will head towards Venus.

He added that he is "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine". And it is like never before; thanks to its revolutionary heat shield which is capable of withstanding 1,370 degrees Celsius.

Tools on board will measure high energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun...

After it launches, the probe will travel at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour, the fastest speed ever achieved by a spacecraft.

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