NASA Launches Probe to Go Deep into Sun’s Scorching Atmosphere

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket payload fairing is seen with the NASA and Parker Solar Probe emblems at Launch Complex 37 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket payload fairing is seen with the NASA and Parker Solar Probe emblems, at Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, U.S., August 8, 2018. Courtesy Bill Ingalls/NASA/Handout via REUTERS
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(Reuters)

NASA launched a space probe early Sunday that will go closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before, the agency announced

The craft will endure extreme heat while zooming through the solar corona to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere that gives rise to the solar winds.

 

NASA's Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., August 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Brown

 

The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small car, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, on a seven-year mission.

It is set to fly into the Sun’s corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) of the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

 

NASA's Parker Solar Probe was scrubbed from launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was scrubbed from launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Brown

 

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth. NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.

The project, with a $1.5 billion (1.17 billion pounds)price tag, is the first major mission under NASA’s Living With a Star program.

 

 

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive difficult heat and radiation conditions.

It has been outfitted with a heat shield designed to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) at its closest pass.

 

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Mark Potter)

 

ASA scientists speak during a preview briefing on the NASA's Parker Solar Probe at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Betsy Congdon, Parker Solar Probe Thermal Protection System lead engineer at APL, shows a sample of what the heat shield can do with heat applied to it during a preview briefing on the NASA’s Parker Solar Probe at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S., July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Brown

 

Technicians and engineers perform light bar testing on NASA's Parker Solar Probe in Titusville
Technicians and engineers perform light bar testing on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, in the Astrotech processing facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Titusville, Florida, U.S., June 5, 2018. Courtesy Glenn Benson/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

 

NASA's Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., August 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Brown