Thursday, 16 August, 2018

NASA’s Spacecraft Will Be Launched Next Week to ‘Touch the Sun’

In Just One Week NASA Will Launch a Spacecraft to'Touch the Sun An artist's depiction of the Parker Solar Probe at work in orbit around the sun Credit NASA John Hopkins APL
Cary Marshall | 09 August, 2018, 01:45

That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

The spacecraft will fly in a loop between the sun and Venus' orbit for at least seven years, with four close flybys of the sun each year.

- A historic moment is coming for NASA on Saturday.

"It's a really innovative mission", said McComas, a professor of astrophysical sciences and the vice president of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

The project is named in honour of American physicist Eugene Parker who first speculated on the nature of solar winds in 1958, and the first time a Nasa mission has honoured a living person.

To get to the sun, the probe must be launched with a massive rocket, so that it will be lifted quickly from Earth.

The sandwich-like layers of foam and carbon fiber, further insulated and strengthened with special coats of paint, create an incredible lightweight defense against the extreme temperatures the probe will encounter as it flies within 4 million miles of the sun's surface.

"Previous missions have been really important for solar science as we study from afar - and we can learn a lot from studying from afar - but Parker Solar Probe is actually going and touching, nearly kissing the sun, so we can learn so much more", said Elizabeth Congdon, the thermal protection system lead engineer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

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Foam and fiber form the probes heat shield, which is nearly 5 inches thick sitting on the front of the spacecraft.

"We hide in the shade underneath the shield", McComas said. A cooling system that uses 1 gallon of water will help to cool the spacecraft and solar panels.

Likewise, scientists hope the probe's small-scale, short-term analysis will improve space weather prediction models.

"Another question we hope to answer is: Why is the solar wind accelerating up to very high speeds in the corona?".

In a statement, NASA said the probe "will travel through the sun's atmosphere, closer to its surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions - and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star". The FIELDS instrument suite, a series of antennas and magnetometers, will measure shape and scale of the corona's electric and magnetic fields.

The mission will take off from Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The solar probe is already prepped for the flight, reveals a new NASA photo that shows the spacecraft snugged inside its fairing atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

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