NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off successfully

15 August, 2018, 23:05 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Dr Nicky Fox just left of centre and other members of the Parker Solar Probe team

Named after 91-year-old physicist Eugene Parker, the probe will study the nature of solar wind, which Parker first hypothesised in 1958.

"At this point, spacecraft is up and happy", said a spokesman with United Launch Alliance, the company that operates the rocket.

Additionally, the third stage includes the STAR 49BV solid rocket motor, which is created to place the spacecraft into its final trajectory.

As for the task at hand, it will take the probe seven-years to complete its mission.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe in on a seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of the star's fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather. "All I have to say is wow, here we go".

Project members at the Laurel operations center erupted in cheers early Sunday morning when it was announced that the probe was operating successfully. The other puzzle is the means by which the crown extends between 1.8 million to 5.4 million degrees Fahrenheit which is far more blazing than the surface of the sun itself. Now, with the help of cutting-edge thermal technology that can protect the mission on its unsafe journey, the spacecraft's four instrument suites will study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind. It's the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.

Mankind's first mission to "touch" the Sun may have panned out differently had it not been for Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, whose intervention made it possible for a research paper proposing the existence of solar wind to get published 60 years ago. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as the University of Chicago's Parker accurately predicted in 1958?

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Additionally, the solar arrays used to power the probe will retract behind the TPS at each approach to the star.

"The only way we can do that is to finally go up and touch the sun", said project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University.

"We've accomplished something that decades ago, lived exclusively in the realm of science fiction", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said.

The biggest challenge was to protect the Probe from burning up as it goes closer to corona's extremely high temperatures and radiation.

"We are thrilled with the launch and humbled to have been entrusted with this mission", Tory Bruno, ULA's President and CEO told Space.com following the launch.

The heat shield dubbed the Thermal Projection System, or TPS, will essentially block 2,200-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, reflecting the heat back so that the spacecraft behind it will remain at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the space agency.

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