NASA is poised to blast off the first spacecraft to explore Sun today. The spacecraft will be on a mission to plunge into the sun’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock the mysteries of the centre of the solar system.
NASA’s car-sized, 1.5 billion US dollar Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a 65-minute launch window that opens at 3:33 am local time.
By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the unmanned 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, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.
But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.
The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 11.43 centimetres thick.
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.