The Hush Post: NASA plans to the launch a $1.5 billion spacecraft that aims to get very close to the Sun’s sizzling atmosphere and become humanity’s first mission to reach the star.
The car-sized Parker Solar Probe will blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday.
The 65-minute launch window opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT), and the weather forecast is 70 per cent favourable for the launch, NASA said.
The probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun.
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geo-magnetic space storms and disrupt Earth’s power grid.
“The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists from the University of Michigan.
‘Full of mysteries’
The probe has a protection of an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).
The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the center of our solar system, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation here on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay a cooler 85 F (29 C).
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.
“The sun is full of mysteries,” said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer.”