NASA's Parker Solar Probe embarks on a mission to 'touch' the sun

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

It's NASA's long-planned attempt to "Touch the Sun" and the probe will get far closer to our host star than any man-made object ever has.

Over the course of about seven years, the spacecraft will orbit the sun about 24 times, eventually flying just 3.8 million miles above the star's surface at its closest point.

The car-sized probe, which will fly closer to the sun than any other man-made object, is set to blast off at 3:33am eastern daylight time (8:33am BST) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 11.

Scientists hope to unlock mysteries such as why the sun's corona, the outermost layer of its atmosphere, is hotter than its surface.

After making its closest approach in late 2024, the spacecraft will run out of fuel and be destroyed.

Poking out over the heat shield, an instrument known as the Faraday cup will take measurements of the solar winds, a flow of ionised gases from the sun that streams past Earth at a million miles per hour.

Saturday marks the day we finally send a spacecraft to the sun.

"Since Parker Solar Probe will skim through the sun's atmosphere, it only needs to drop 53,000 miles per hour of sideways motion to reach its destination, but that's no easy feat", NASA notes.

Nasa aims to collect data about the highly magnetised corona.

Solar wind can create a whole host of issues for humans - from messing with Global Positioning System communications to exposing astronauts in space to high radiation - and the Parker Solar Probe is launching on a mission to figure out where it comes from.

As NASA explains, the probe's first challenge will be to cancel out the speed at which the earth is moving in relation to the sun.

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