NASA has launched the first ever mission to the Sun with its Parker Solar Probe spacecraft. The probe was launched in a second attempt today, and it is the fastest human-made object ever. The mission will provide critical research data regarding essential solar mysteries. NASA’s record-breaking spacecraft took off on the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The initially scheduled launch was on Saturday, but it was delayed several times and then rescheduled on Sunday. The event was streamed live on NASA television and the website. The media reported on every aspect of this mission, from its name, which is given after a living person solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, to the probe’s active shield. Parker Solar Probe has begun its journey to the Sun’s atmosphere, also called corona, to study an area which is previously seen only through eclipses. The spacecraft will go much closer to the Sun than any other spaceship in history.
Parker Solar Probe will be facing a lot of heat and radiation and will be absorbing temperatures as high as 2500 degree Fahrenheit. The heat resisting probe is very lightweight and weighs only 1400 pounds. The craft starts its first trip as one of the most powerful rockets, the Delta IV Heavy with an added third stage. Once it reaches space, the craft needs to drop 53000 miles per hour of sideways motion to skim the sun’s atmosphere. However, this is a lot more complex than it seems. Parker Probe will be required to undertake seven Venus gravity assists to draw its orbit closer to the Sun for a final record approach of 3.83 million miles from the star’s visible surface.
Once it reaches there, the craft will use its heat shield to protect itself as well as the autonomous cooling system. Parker will reach 430,000 miles per hour on its final orbits, bolstered by the Sun’s extreme gravity to become the fastest human-made object. Parker Solar Probe’s most significant achievement will be the contribution it will make to science. The research mission will return the critical information about the Sun including the data it collects on its corona, solar winds, and magnetic fields. It will also observe the birth of the very solar wind that Dr. Parker predicted. Dr. Adam Szabo, the Parker mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “We’ve been examining the solar wind for over 50 years. But the wind is processed by the time it reaches Earth. By studying it much closer to the Sun, the Parker Probe will be able to tell us such things as what part of the Sun is providing the energy source for the wind’s particles and how they can accelerate to such incredibly high speeds.”