NASA's Parker Solar Probe, its journey to the Sun

Eugene Parker at the University of Chicago               CBS News

A robotic spacecraft called the Parker Solar Probe is set to launch in August.

In less than a week, the Parker Solar Probe will soar to the skies and embark on its historic journey to the sun.

This means PSP will be able to fly through the star's scorching-hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists. Christian said. "Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to almost half the speed of light, and we don't know why".

To get to the sun, the probe must be launched with a massive rocket, so that it will be lifted quickly from Earth.

The mission's goal is to study the sun's atmosphere and solar wind. The probe will be the first spacecraft to fly into the low solar corona-the aura of plasma that surrounds our closest star.

The spacecraft, which is about the size of a vehicle, will then loop around Venus before it makes its final run towards the giant fire ball. That flyby will kick off 24 orbits, performed over seven years, that will gradually pull the spacecraft closer and closer to our star.

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It will make its final approach in 2025 where it will come within 4 million miles of the sun's surface. Developers have armed the probe spacecraft with a heavy heat shield, majority made of carbon for protecting the craft and its sophisticated instruments from the terrific warm temperatures of the Sun.

The four instruments onboard the spacecraft are a solar wind plasma suite, the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) investigation; an electric and magnetic field suite (FIELDS); a wide field imager (WISPR); and the energetic particle suite, the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS).

McComas has been involved in designing and planning the Parker Space Probe for more than a decade, but the mission was first identified as a priority in 1958, at the start of the space age.

"We hide in the shade underneath the shield", McComas said. In launch power, the Delta IV Heavy rocket is right after the new Falcon Heavy rocket - which is the most powerful rocket at the moment.

Additionally, it will carry a memory card containing over 1.1 million names, including William Shatner's, of people who asked for them to be sent into the sun.

The mission will take off from Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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