What you need to know about NASA's mission to touch the sun

11 August, 2018, 05:43 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

The records will start falling with the first orbit, when the Parker probe comes within 25 million kilometres of the sun and beats the current record holder, NASA's former Helios 2 spacecraft. The 91-year-old scientist will be present to view the launch when the spacecraft takes off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind", Parker said earlier this week. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer". Its handlers will gradually bring the probe closer and closer to the sun over its six-year-plus mission, but by the time it begins its final orbits it's going to be moving faster than anything mankind has ever built before. The 8-foot (2.4-meter) shield will face the sun during the close solar encounters, shading the science instruments in the back and keeping them humming at a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

During its years in space, the Parker is expected to reveal never-before-seen aspects of the sun's atmosphere and the star as a whole. During its closest solar approaches, the spacecraft will hurtle through the corona at 430,000 miles per hour (690 kph), setting a speed record.

Solar wind can create a whole host of issues for humans - from messing with Global Positioning System communications to exposing astronauts in space to high radiation - and the Parker Solar Probe is launching on a mission to figure out where it comes from.

"And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun". If we're able to learn more about its origin and behavior, it might be possible to predict when space weather might occur.

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Parker Solar Probe is created to take solar punishment. Disturbances in its solar wind can have an impact on near-Earth space, which can affect our planet's satellites.

The Sun may be granting us life but it also has the power to play havoc with spacecraft in orbit, and communications and electronics on Earth.

To survive the heat, the probe is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick heat shield made of reinforced carbon.

As NASA explains, the probe's first challenge will be to cancel out the speed at which the earth is moving in relation to the sun.

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