Watch NASA’s historic Sun probe mission launch: here’s how

Watch NASA’s historic Sun probe mission launch: here’s how

Watch NASA’s historic Sun probe mission launch: here’s how

(If that still sounds far away, consider that on any given day, we Earthlings are on the order of 93 million miles from the Sun.) The PSP will venture closer to the Sun than the planet Mercury, does and reach one-seventh the distance of earlier solar missions.

Scientists will launch a rocket carrying the "Parker Solar Probe" at 3:33 a.m. Saturday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

But the Parker Solar Probe was built to do just that.

"The sun is full of mysteries", said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

The records will start falling with the first orbit, when the Parker Solar Probe comes within 25 million km of the Sun and beats the current record holder, Nasa's former Helios 2 spacecraft. It's expected to make the first Venus pass at the end of September.

How do solar winds, these currents of particles from the solar corona, form and escape into space?

Although the probe itself is about the size of a auto, a powerful rocket is needed to escape Earth's orbit, change direction and reach the sun.

But getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down - for which Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus.

"According to a statement from Nasa, the probe is due to orbit within six-and-a-half million kilometres of the Sun's "surface", where the probe will "(face) heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history".

Space scientists have spent decades trying to understand how energy moves through the corona and what drives the flow of charged particles that the sun continuously casts off.

"Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system". Its launch window will open at 3.48am (eastern daylight time, or 7.48am Greenwich mean time) on Saturday 11 August. It is expected to orbit the Sun 24 times, with the occasional assists from Venus sending it in closer and closer to the Sun's surface.

The card was mounted on a plaque with a dedication and an appointment of the homonym of the mission, the heliophysicist Eugene Parker, first to theorize about the existence of the solar wind.

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. But even though the Sun has such a powerful pull, it's surprisingly hard to actually go to the Sun: It takes 55 times more energy to go to the Sun than it does to go to Mars.

"The sun is hot", said project manager Andrew Driesman.

Also on board: more than 1 million names of space fans submitted to NASA this past spring.

"I'm greatly honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission", Parker said. One set, called the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons, will scoop up particles to measure characteristics like their speed and temperature.

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