Nasa's coolest Parker Solar Probe to lift off and touch Sun soon


The US space agency launches its Parker Solar Probe on Saturday, which will travel closer to the Sun than any mission before, to unlock the secrets of fierce radioactive storms which threaten Earth.

The car-sized probe, which will get within 3.9million miles of the sun's surface, is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday at 8.33am British time. The current close-to-the-sun champ, NASA's former Helios 2, got within 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) in 1976.

By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the probe's main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around Sun.

NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend. While the shield will be facing temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft will be at a toasty but tolerable 85 degrees. "Well, Parker Solar Probe's going to be in there", said project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University.

Since the mission was named in his honor a year ago, NASA has offered Parker special behind-the-scenes access to the spacecraft carrying his name. It will fly by our solar system's hottest planet seven times over seven years, using the gravity of Venus to shrink its own oval orbit and draw increasingly closer to the sun.

This image made available by NASA shows an artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. It’s designed to take solar punishment like never before thanks to its revolutionary heat shield that’s capable of withstanding 2,500 degre
Nasa probe will still be circling Sun at end of Solar System say scientists

It's created to take solar punishment like never before, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield that's capable of withstanding 1,370 degrees Celsius.

Boffins are hoping that the $1.5 billion mission will shed light on not only our dynamic Sun but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars - and other types of stars - out there in the Milky Way and beyond. Notably, the Parker Solar Probe is also the first NASA spacecraft to be named after a living person. The 91-year-old scientist will be present to view the launch when the spacecraft takes off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It's the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone who's still alive.

"The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before", Parker Solar Probe scientist Adam Szabo said in a statement.

"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".

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