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


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

NASA is sending a spacecraft straight into the sun's glittering crown, an atmospheric region so hot and harsh any normal visitor would wither.

It's NASA's long-planned attempt to "Touch the Sun" and the probe will get far closer to our host star than any man-made object ever has.

In addition to bringing humanity closer to the Sun than ever before, the unmanned probe will also set a new speed record for a manmade object when it reaches 430,000 miles per hour in 2024.

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.

The entire project cost R20.5-billion and will continue until 2025. Its handlers will gradually bring the probe closer and closer to the sun over its six-year-plus mission, but by the time it begins its final orbits it's going to be moving faster than anything mankind has ever built before.

On each close approach to the sun, the probe will sample the solar wind, study the sun's corona, and provide close-up observations from around the star.

Boffins are hoping that the $1.5 billion mission will shed light on not only our dynamic Sun but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars - and other types of stars - out there in the Milky Way and beyond.

This is the first NASA spacecraft to be named after someone still alive.

Eugene Parker, 91, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, predicted the existence of solar wind 60 years ago. Apart from Parker's photo and his research paper are more than 1 million names of space fans who submitted their named to Nasa this past spring.

"You know something exciting is just around the bend, but where you're sitting you can't see what that is", Fox said.

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. Its closest approach will be in 2024.

"The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before", Parker Solar Probe scientist Adam Szabo said in a statement. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun...