NASA second attempt at solar probe launch

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A NASA spacecraft has taken off on an historic mission towards the Sun in a delayed launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven "gravity-assist" flybys of Venus.

PSP is the only NASA mission, scientific probe to study the sun's corona and solar wind.

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

Once there, the spacecraft will become the fastest one ever, orbiting the Sun at a whopping 430-thousand miles an hour.

At a press conference last week, Parker said of his namesake mission: "I expect to find some surprises".

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

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University said in a tweet right before liftoff. Yet the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The outer sun-facing side of the shield will reach 2,500 Fahrenheit at closest approach to the sun".

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NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe on Sunday morning.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are handsome ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere". Parker watched the launch at Cape Canaveral and said it was his first time seeing a rocket blast off in person. All I can say is wow, here we go.

Finally, after two firings of the second-stage engine, the Parker Solar Probe and its Northrup Grumman solid-fuel upper stage were released from the Delta 4.

"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, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.

Zurbuchen also described the probe as one of NASA's most "strategically important" missions.

The corona holds the answers to many of scientists' outstanding questions about the Sun's activity and processes. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as Parker accurately predicted in 1958?

The spacecraft's heat shield will serve as an umbrella, shading the science instruments during the close, critical solar junctures.

It is said to endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times greater than that experienced on Earth.

"I'll bet you 10 bucks it works, " Parker said.

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