NASA spacecraft set to "touch" the sun launches this Saturday

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Its travels will carry it closer to our biggest star than any other spacecraft has ever been, becoming the first man-made vehicle to go through the solar corona - the incandescent outer atmosphere surrounding the sun.

The $1.6-billion mission aims to improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth as well as astronauts in space, NASA said.

The probe will fly through the sun's atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to the star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury.

"Ever wonder what a spacecraft looks like tucked inside its protective capsule atop a rocket?"

Nasa is set to launch a space exploration mission this week that will attempt to "touch the Sun" and could offer vital clues about how solar energy works.

Every few orbits, the probe will use Venus' gravity to adjust its trajectory slightly, to make that distance of closest approach to the sun, the perihelion, get closer and closer.

McComas plans to be at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the Parker Space Probe. The gravity assist is scheduled for October 2 and will put the probe on track to reach its first point of close approach to the sun on November 5.

The Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield.

"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 lovely - but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere". The heat will not melt the probe, because the engineers have created a powerful shield that will keep everything in the probe at 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). While the launch window was due to close on August 19, NASA has managed to extend it for a few more days, until August 23.

The pioneering Parker mission is setting out to find answers to some of the most ardent questions concerning our understanding on the sun.

While Nasa scientists have meant to launch a solar mission for decades, cuts made to the space programme by successive presidents have hampered development, while "only recent technological advances in cooling systems and fault management have made it possible" says The Independent.

This "sizzling" mission aims to reveal the secrets of the corona and figure out why the sun's atmosphere becomes hotter farther away from its surface.