NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to 'touch sun'

Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Called the Parker Solar Probe, it will be humanity's first attempt to touch the Sun. NASA is tackling this challenge to facilitate the Parker Solar Probe's mission to the Sun's atmosphere.

Nasa aims to collect data about the highly magnetised corona. However, it is not easy to reach the Sun.

This will be within 6 million kilometres of the sun's surface, closer than any other spacecraft has been before. Not exactly, explains NASA. To reach the sun from Earth, all of that sideways motion needs to be cancelled out.

So apart from using a powerful rocket-the Delta IV Heavy-Parker Solar Probe will have to perform a total of seven gravity assisted manoeuvres at Venus over its mission.

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Scientists hope the mission will be able to provide answers as to why the corona is 300 times hotter than the surface of the sun, a phenomenon that Nasa says is in "defiance of all logic" because "its atmosphere gets much, much hotter the farther it stretches from the sun's blazing surface". It takes 55 times more energy to reach the sun than it does to reach Mars according to NASA.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, is set to use seven Venus fly-bys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

While shedding the unneeded sideways speed, the probe will pickup overall speed and that speed will be boosted by the extreme gravity near the Sun. The probe is expected to break the speed record for any human-made vehicle.

You've already heard plenty about the Parker Solar Probe over the past year or so, and with good reason.

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