Last-minute technical problem delays Nasa’s flight to sun

14 August, 2018, 16:14 | Author: Grady Montgomery
  • Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

NASA and rocket-builder United Launch Alliance plan to make another attempt to get the long-awaited mission off the ground Sunday at 3:31 a.m. EDT (GMT-4), the opening of a 65-minute window, assuming the problem is corrected by then.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails in getting it launched, to thinking about all the interesting things which I don't know yet and which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said on NASA TV.

A NASA spacecraft zoomed toward the sun Sunday on an unprecedented quest to get closer to our star than anything ever sent before.

"So it's of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict this space weather much like we predict weather here on Earth".

When the Parker Probe nears the Sun, it will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - 700,000km per hour - making it the fastest human-made object.

But the Parker Solar Probe was built to do just that.

The unmanned probe is named after Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old pioneering solar astrophysicist, and the USA space agency has coined it as the first mission to "touch the Sun".




The probe was scheduled to take off from Florida's Cape Canaveral at 9.28am United Kingdom time, but just one minute and 55 seconds before launch it was cancelled after a technical fault.

"Wow, here we go".

"The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles", explained NASA.

It will be the fastest manmade moving object in history and NASA hope it will come within 3.83 million miles of the sun's surface, making 24 loops of the star over seven years.

The Parker probe's final three orbits - in 2024 and 2025 - will be the closest.

In the lead-up to the launch, NASA collected 1.1 million names from members of the public who wanted to symbolically orbit the sun at close range. "We're now going to fly this mission". Even so, Parker's four-inch-thick, 160-pound carbon composite heat shield will be subjected to some 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit during the closest approaches, hotter than flowing lava.

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine". But Earth's star has secrets that scientists have been trying to figure out for decades!

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