NASA embarks on "dangerous" mission to the Sun

NASA blasts off historic probe to ‘touch Sun’

"The unique requirements of this mission made the Delta IV Heavy the flawless launch vehicle to deliver Parker Solar Probe into orbit with the highest precision", said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe zoomed towards the sun's atmosphere at 3:31 a.m. from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a groundbreaking quest to get closer to our star than ever before.

Scientists are aiming to use the probe to collect data about the inner workings of the highly magnetised corona, to better understand the causes of solar wind.

It left in the early hours of yesterday morning and will end up being just 3.8 million miles away from the surface of the sun. "We have not been able to answer these questions".

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard launching from the Mobile Service Tower on Sunday, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"Parker Solar Probe will enable groundbreaking research, making space a safer to be".

The Parker probe, which cost a whopping $1.5bn (£1.17bn) left Cape Canaveral last night atop a big rocket, bound for the centre of our galaxy.

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

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"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things which I don't know yet, and which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said.

"Wow, here we go".

Experts say a worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade to fully recover from. A few seconds after that, the upper stage's single hydrogen-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine ignited to continue the climb to space.

The specially shielded Parker Solar Probe will have to endure temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) and solar radiation intensities 475 times higher than we're used to here on Earth. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

Obviously, it's going to be bloody warm out there, but fear not - the probe has a revolutionary new heat shield that is meant to stop it burning up.

The probe is set to make 24 passes through the corona, collecting data.

In an orbit this close to the Sun, the real challenge is to keep the spacecraft from burning up.

Nicky Fox, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab - who were instrumental in the building of the spacecraft - said: "We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star". As it gets farther away from the sun and closer to the edge of the solar system, more accurate observations will allow scientists to confirm the presence of a hydrogen wall.

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