NASA Parker Solar Probe to launch from Cape Canaveral

Cristina Cross
August 11, 2018

Over the next seven years, the Parker Solar Probe will fly by Venus seven times, using the planet's gravity to bring itself closer to the Sun each time.

The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958.

Scientists have had to take great care to make sure that the Parker Solar Probe doesn't burn up in the process of conducting its important science. But it can withstand 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) as well as extreme radiation, thanks to its high-tech carbon.

Its mission is to help scientists unlock the mysteries of the sun's atmosphere and answer questions like why its corona, the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere, is hotter than its surface. The goal is to collect data and images on the sun's atmosphere, called the "corona", Engadget reports.

Scientists expect the $1.5 billion mission to shed light not only on our own dynamic sun, but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars - and other types of stars - out there in the Milky Way and beyond. These disturbances can also create complications as we attempt to send astronauts and spacecraft farther away from the Earth.

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Parker, now retired from the University of Chicago, spent his career trying to understand the sun and the ways it affects the solar system.

This is the first-ever spacecraft to be named after someone still alive.

The probe will blast off atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37. "Our first fly-by to Venus is in the fall, in September".

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which is scheduled to launch early Saturday, is expected to rack up a number of historic firsts for the space agency. So really the only way we can now do it is to do this daring mission to plunge into the corona. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun... But these findings are going to take a long time - first, the Parker probe will have to orbit around the sun, getting closer and closer, for as many as seven years.

When the probe begins its final orbits it will be moving at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, according to NASA.

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