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NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off | Reuters | NASA soalr probe | probe Parker

NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off | Reuters | NASA soalr probe | probe Parker

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 12 at 3:31 a.m.

The Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early on Sunday.

Eastern on Sunday after an initial launch attempt on Saturday was scrubbed because of a last-minute technical glitch.

The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick, enabling the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star.

NASA hopes the probe - which was named in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago professor who successfully predicted the existence of solar wind in 1958 - will help scientists crack some of the sun's greatest mysteries, including the secret of the corona's incredibly high temperatures and the origins of and the mechanism behind the acceleration of solar wind.

Over the course of almost seven years and 24 solar orbits, the probe will make use of seven Venus flybys to adjust its trajectory.

The spacecraft has been named after 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who was one of the many spectators who arrived at the launch site to watch the historic moment.

Learning more about the solar wind also will help scientists better predict the effects of solar storms and the impact of the solar wind on Earth's magnetic field, wreaking havoc with communications, power grids and navigation.

"In 10 to 20 years, a carbon disk will be floating around the sun in orbit, and it will be around until the end of the solar system", CNN quoted Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, as saying. We've studied it from missions that are close in, even as close as the planet Mercury. To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years.

The USD 1.5 billion mission will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona. The first science data should return sometime in December.

"Now I have to turn from really biting my nails to thinking about the interesting things [to come] that I don't know yet, which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five, six, or seven years", he said.

The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

Parker, the probe, will start shattering records this fall.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hour (692,000 kilometers per hour). All I can say is wow, here we go. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams", Fox said.

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.


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