Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Jan Cross
August 11, 2018

Though the mission has affectionately been dubbed as one to "touch the sun", the probe won't quite go that far, Fox News explained.

NASA is close to launching a spacecraft on a voyage to the sun that will give scientists their closest-ever view of the star.

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.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the U.S. space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface.

Scientists hope to unlock mysteries such as why the sun's corona, the outermost layer of its atmosphere, is hotter than its surface. The probe will use Venus' gravity to slow itself down as it makes its close approaches with the sun.

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After it launches, the probe will travel at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour, the fastest speed ever achieved by a spacecraft.

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).

Nasa aims to collect data about the highly magnetised corona. That shield should absorb the extreme heat of the sun, heating up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and keeping the spacecraft and its sensitive instruments at 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA.

Earth, and all the other objects in the Solar System are constantly plowing through what is known as the solar wind - a constant stream of high-energy particles, mostly protons and electrons, hurled into space by The Sun.

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