Last-minute technical problem delays NASA's flight to sun
14 August, 2018, 23:14 | Author: Rosalie Gross
"The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto", said Yanping Guo from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed the mission trajectory. The data will also help to answer questions about how the sun's winds, eruptions, and flares shape weather in space, and how that activity may affect life on Earth, along with astronauts and satellites in space.
A Saturday launch attempt was delayed due to a technical glitch.
A rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Sunday. A special component of SWEAP is a small instrument that will look around the protective heat shield of the spacecraft directly at the sun, the only instrument on the spacecraft to do so.
The spacecraft is the only NASA probe in history to be named after a living person - in this case, 91-year-old solar physicist Eugene Parker, who first described the solar wind in 1958.
The unmanned spacecraft's mission is to get closer than any human-made object ever to the center of our solar system.
The corona, visible from Earth during last year's total solar eclipse as a fiery glow around the sun with wispy bands stretching outward, is far hotter than the roiling surface below it.
As getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down, Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus: seven times.
The spacecraft's path through the corona will allow it to observe the acceleration of the solar wind that makes a critical transition from slower than the speed of sound to faster than it.
But it's only been in the past few years that scientists and engineers could put together a space mission capable of going close enough to get the data to back up the theory.
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hour (692,000 kilometers per hour). Most astronomers at that time thought of outer space as perfectly empty and bare, and the notion of solar wind sweeping particles through space didn't make sense to many people.
Its maximum velocity around the sun will reach 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object to orbit a celestial body.
Several other designs on the spacecraft keep Parker Solar Probe sheltered from the heat.
Corona is known to give rise to solar wind that can penetrate through the solar system because of the continuous flow of its charged particles.
PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind. Now, with the help of cutting-edge thermal technology that can protect the mission on its unsafe journey, the spacecraft's four instrument suites will study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind. The shield's front surface will be able to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft up to 2,500 degree Fahrenheit.
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