NASA's mission to 'touch the sun' starts tomorrow

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Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel.

NASA will send a spacecraft on a mission to get a closer look at the sun.

The probe is expected to take flight atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket at 3:33 a.m. ET on Saturday, ironically launching to the sun in the dead of night from Cape Canaveral Florida.


This will be within 6 million kilometres of the sun's surface, closer than any other spacecraft has been before. The Parker Solar Probe will embark on a almost seven-year venture, becoming the first spacecraft to have a direct encounter with a star.

NASA's plans for the probe include multiple orbits of the sun, repeatedly slingshotting itself around the star and gathering vital science data each time it makes its approach.

The car-sized spacecraft will fly as fast as 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made spacecraft ever, according to NASA.


Scientists also hope the probe can help them to answer why the corona, the outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere, is 300 times hotter than its surface.

In order to combat the intense temperatures, the probe has been covered with a carbon composite coated ceramic capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C (3,002F). The goal is to collect data and images on the sun's atmosphere, called the "corona", Engadget reports.

Poking out over the heat shield, an instrument known as the Faraday cup will take measurements of the solar winds, a flow of ionised gases from the sun that streams past Earth at a million miles per hour.


NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend.

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