NASA launches solar probe

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It will be the fastest human-made object with speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour, able to survive million degree temperatures, orbiting the sun just 4 million miles from its surface, after a 90 million-mile trip, to get the first measurements of the sun's energy.

And Nasa's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, said: "I'm in awe".

A last-minute technical problem Saturday delayed NASA's unprecedented flight to the sun.

Washington D.C, August 12: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sunday launched the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft.

The spacecraft will face heat and radiation "like no spacecraft before it", the agency said.

The spacecraft is the only Nasa probe in history to be named after a living person - in this case, solar physicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described the solar wind in 1958. The first is why the corona - the outer surface of the sun - is much hotter than the Sun's surface.

The U.S space agency Sunday launched a probe that aims to travel closer to the sun than ever before. What drives the supersonic solar wind - the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? Solar wind is a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth.

On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will travel at about 430,000 miles per hour, a new speed record for a manmade object, NASA said of the mission, its first to be named after a living person.

"I'm greatly honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission", Parker said.

When closest to the sun, the 4½-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shields will have to withstand temperatures close to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

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Also, the spacecraft is created to autonomously keep itself safe and on track to the Sun as several sensors are attached to its body along the edge of the shadow from the heat shield.

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.

Several other designs on the spacecraft keep Parker Solar Probe sheltered from the heat.

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind.

"I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart".

Parker's equations predicted the solar wind, but six decades later, scientists can't precisely explain the physics driving its acceleration or the corona's extreme heating.

Parker said last week that he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

Eugene Parker was an astronomer at the University of Chicago in the 1950s.

Image: The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. So far, the Helios 2 spacecraft has made the closest approach, which flew within 27 million miles in 1976.