A Sputnik-era dream: NASA spacecraft hurtles toward the sun

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft takes off on its mission to the Sun

Altogether, the Parker probe will make 24 close approaches to our star during the seven-year, $1.5 billion journey.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard launching from the Mobile Service Tower on Sunday, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "Even I still go, really?" The spacecraft is named after 91-year old solar physicist Eugene Parker, 91, who was the first scientist to describe solar wind in 1958.

He proposed the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago.

It's going to be subjected to temperatures of about 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the heat shelter is going to mean that it only feels like about 29C, and it's been warmer than that in London this summer.

The Parker Solar Probe will have to travel about 430,000 miles per hour and use a high-tech heat shield to survive the trip.

Passing within 3.8 million miles of the sun's visible surface - well within the shimmering halo of the outer atmosphere, or corona - the spacecraft's heat shield will endure 2,500-degree heating while whipping past the star at a record 430,000 mph, fast enough to fly from NY to Tokyo in less than a minute. "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

The craft will endure extreme heat while zooming through the solar corona to study the Sun's outer atmosphere that gives rise to the solar winds. It could be due to interactions between electrically charged particles and the sun's powerful magnetic field, or it could be the result of countless "nanoflares" governed by another mechanism. He said it was like looking at photos of the Taj Mahal for years and then beholding the real thing in India.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the USA, said in an earlier statement.

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Sensors will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times and it will correct itself if it ends up at the wrong angle.

"All I can say is "Wow, here we go, we're in for some learning over the next several years", he said when asked how he felt.

Parker Solar Probe, which is expected to complete 24 orbits of the Sun, will use Venus to adjust its course.

She urged the spacecraft to "go touch the sun!"

"This could be from hydrogen particles beyond the solar system interacting with the furthest reaches of the solar wind, creating what appears to be a boundary in the distance, according to the paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters". Seven Venus flybys are planned over the seven-year mission to fine-tune the trajectory, setting up the close-in aim points.

A space probe that will "touch the sun" and reach record-breaking speeds has successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams", Fox said. "The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it".

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