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12 August 2018, 05:57 | Devin Moran
NASA Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to high-five the sun
This handout photo released by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back on August 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida - NASA postponed until August 12, 2018, the launch of the first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star's sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries.
A triple-core Delta IV Heavy rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral just after 3:30 a.m. Sunday, momentarily turning night into day in a spectacle visible for miles along the Florida coast. The spacecraft will make its first close approach in early November, when it will travel 15 million miles from the Sun - inside the Sun's corona (aka the solar atmosphere).
Saturday morning's launch attempt was foiled by last-minute technical trouble.
The probe will use Venus's gravity over the course of it's 93million-miles journey over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to "touch the sun", as Nasa calls it.
The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.
In particular, scientists hope it will provide information about solar winds and solar energy particles.
More than 1 million names are aboard the spacecraft, submitted last spring by space enthusiasts, as well as photos of Parker, the man, and a copy of his 1958 landmark paper on solar wind.
NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".
Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: 'The sun is full of mysteries.
From Earth, it is 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) to the sun, and the Parker probe will be within 4 percent of that distance at its closest.
"The spacecraft must operate in the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees", Brown told ABC News via email.
Zurbuchen also described the probe as one of NASA's most "strategically important" missions.
The probe is NASA's first to be named after a living person. "We actually slow down just a little bit, and that allows us to shrink our orbit", Fox explained. All I can say is: "'Wow, here we go.' We're in for some learning over the next seven years". That's nearly 10 times closer than Mercury gets, and seven times closer than any previous probe.
The spacecraft's heat shield will serve as an umbrella, shading the science instruments during the close, critical solar junctures.
He added: "It's a whole new phase and it's gonna be fascinating throughout.and we're just waiting for the data now so the experts can get busy because there's a lot of data will be coming in".
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