Thursday, 16 August, 2018

NASA second attempt at solar probe launch

NASA blasts off historic probe to ‘touch Sun’ NASA spacecraft blasts off toward sun for closest look yet
Theresa Hayes | 12 August, 2018, 16:12

The probe's destination is the sun's corona, which it will fly through over two dozen times, eventually coming within less than 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of our star's surface.

"At this point, spacecraft is up and happy", said a spokesman with United Launch Alliance, the company that operates the rocket.

It is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone still alive.

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

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions. Eastern on Sunday after an initial launch attempt on Saturday was scrubbed because of a last-minute technical glitch. NASA needed the mighty 23-story rocket, plus a third stage, to get the diminutive Parker probe - the size of a small vehicle and well under a ton - racing toward the sun. "In fact, one of the key things about our early orbits is we're actually just at this sort of sweet spot. over the same area of the sun for many, many days, allowing us to do some really incredible science on our very first flyby".

No wonder scientists consider it the coolest, hottest mission under the sun, and what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday as NASA noted.

It is travelling on board the Delta-IV Heavy rocket, which will hurl the probe into the inner Solar System.

"All I can say is "Wow, here we go, we're in for some learning over the next several years", he said when asked how he felt.

It is said the data gathered by the car-sized probe will "revolutionise" our understanding of the star, which has a huge impact on Earth.

"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. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as Parker accurately predicted in 1958?

"The spacecraft will provide unprecedented information about our sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system to affect Earth and other worlds", explained Nasa in a statement.

Scientists have devised ways to ensure the automated and unmanned probe does not melt in the extreme heat and radiation.

"Chandra, as he was popularly known, is another astrophysicist with his name tagged to a space mission, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory", Nandi said.

Sensors will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times and it will correct itself if it ends up at the wrong angle.