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12 August 2018, 05:58 | Erica Roy
NASA Johns Hopkins APL Steve Gribben
An illustration of the sun-bound Parker Solar Probe
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA'sParker Solar Probe spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 12 at 3:31 a.m.
A triple-core Delta IV Heavy rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral just after 3:30 a.m. Sunday, momentarily turning night into day in a spectacle visible for miles along the Florida coast.
In reality, it should come within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun's surface, close enough to study the curious phenomenon of the solar wind and the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, which is 300 times hotter than its surface.
The launch had been due to take place yesterday but was dramatically aborted just seconds from lift-off after a last minute technical hitch.
The craft is equipped with a first of it's kind heat shield, and an internal water cooling system that will protect the instruments from the extreme conditions.
The unprecedented sun-skimming probe that lifted off today from the USA is set to study the "solar winds" proposed in the paper by Dr Eugene Newman Parker, who has now become the first living scientist to have mission named after him.
The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small auto, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, on a seven-year mission.
He proposed the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago.
Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun.
The mission may help scientists predict space weather events that can wreak havoc on Earth.
"The only way we can do that is to finally go up and touch the sun", the $1.5 billion mission's project scientist, Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, told reporters in advance of today's launch.
Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun's bright face during total solar eclipses.
The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake. Each flyby will provide an orbit-shaping gravity boost, drawing it ever closer to the sun and straight into the corona - the sun's outermost atmosphere.
"Wow, here we go!" That will be seven times closer than previous spacecraft.
Zurbuchen also described the probe as one of NASA's most "strategically important" missions. That's nearly 10 times closer than Mercury gets, and seven times closer than any previous probe.
NASA hope the breakthrough journey will reveal why the sun's outer layer - the corona - is hotter than the surface. While granting us life, the sun also has the power to disrupt spacecraft in orbit, as well as communications and electronics on Earth.
"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams", Fox said.
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