Nasa delays solar probe launch

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

NASA has postponed until Sunday the launch of its unmanned Parker Solar Probe, to allow engineers more time to investigate a red flag that was raised in the last moment before liftoff.

The probe is meant to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of its surface during a seven-year mission. He's now 91 and eager to see the solar probe soar.

Rocket maker United Launch Alliance says it will try again Sunday, provided the helium-pressure issue can be resolved quickly.

The probe will make at least 24 passes around the sun, with gravity assists from Venus for seven of them, and continue going after that as long as it has propellant.

Eugene Parker predicted the existence of solar wind 60 years ago.

The probe is protected by a 4in-thick shield that constantly repositions itself between the sun's power and the scientific instruments on board.

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of its surface during a seven-year mission.

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Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.

At Parker Solar Probe's closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach almost 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius. "We know the questions we want to answer.".

In addition, physicists don't know what's driving the solar wind, the supersonic stream of charged particles constantly blasting away from the sun.

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.

"With each orbit, we'll be seeing new regions of the Sun's atmosphere and learning things about stellar mechanics that we've wanted to explore for decades", Fox added.

"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman.

The probe is set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in history.

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