Nasa's coolest Parker Solar Probe to lift off and touch Sun soon

Artist's illustration of the Parker Solar Probe at the sun

Artist's illustration of the Parker Solar Probe at the

NASA's Parker Solar Probe will be the first spacecraft to "touch" the sun, hurtling through the sizzling solar atmosphere and coming within just 6 million kilometres of the surface.

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.

The closer, the better for figuring out why the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the Sun's surface.

It will take six years for the probe to make to reach its closest point to the sun, in 2024, by using Venus' gravity to bring itself nearer and nearer to the star.

The spacecraft will make use of an 8ft-long heat shield known as the Thermal Protection System (TPS), which has been made using a carbon composite coated with ceramic to cope with the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth.

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 deg F (29 deg C).

Today (Aug. 10), accompanied by NASA Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen, project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University, and United Launch Alliance President Tory Bruno, Parker admired the Delta IV Heavy rocket with the probe in its tip.

Since the mission was named in his honor previous year, NASA has offered Parker special behind-the-scenes access to the spacecraft carrying his name. "We know the questions we want to answer". Its first close solar approach will be on 5 November. The 91-year-old scientist will be present to view the launch when the spacecraft takes off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before", Parker Solar Probe scientist Adam Szabo said in a statement.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - 700,000kmh - making it the fastest human-made object.

"With each orbit, we'll be seeing new regions of the sun's atmosphere and learning things about stellar mechanics that we've wanted to explore for decades".

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