NASA details how it plans to 'touch the sun'

At its closest approach, the spacecraft will fly less than 4 million miles (6 million kilometers) above the surface of the sun, directly through its blazing-hot atmosphere.

The spacecraft is named for Eugene Parker, the scientist who first predicted the existence of the solar wind - fast-moving solar particles that stream through the entire solar system. "You go outside in Florida today the sun is hot".

Scientists said the Parker Solar Probe that will come 3.83 million miles million miles from the surface of the sun.

Parker Solar Probe is created to take solar punishment. "Our first fly-by to Venus is in the fall, in September".

The main goal of researchers is to study the solar wind. So the probe first has to make it out of our atmosphere into space, and then it has to run its engines hard enough to cancel out the momentum from Earth's orbit - otherwise it would follow roughly the same path. Nevertheless, the solar probe will get much closer than before to the sun.

The spacecraft will trace how energy and heat move through the sun's atmosphere and explore what accelerates the solar wind and solar energetic particles.

According to the U.S. space agency, Eugene Parker, called this cascade of energy and particles, solar wind, a constant release of material from the Sun.

"Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system". The launch of the probe is now scheduled to launch tomorrow (Aug. 11) at 3:33 a.m. EDT (0733 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

"If we don't do this successfully, there really isn't another opportunity anytime soon", he added.

Of course, the PSP is more than a collection of instruments.* It's headed straight for regions reaching up to 2500° F and, at its fastest, it will reach 430,000 miles per hour-giving it the record for fastest spacecraft ever! It will orbit around the sun 24 times over the next seven years. "This rocket, in the span of just a few minutes, less than an hour, will send the spacecraft on its mission out to the Sun to literally fly through the corona - an absolutely incredible technological feat".

Just thinking about this $1.5 billion undertaking is awe-inspiring all by itself, however, the mission will be historic in a number of ways, too.

Scientists want to learn about the solar wind which causes geomagnetic storms.

The project was proposed in 1958 to a brand-new NASA, and "60 years later, and it's becoming a reality", said project manager Andy Driesman, also of Johns Hopkins, which designed and built the spacecraft.

Also on board: more than 1 million names of space fans submitted to NASA this past spring. One set, called the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons, will scoop up particles to measure characteristics like their speed and temperature.

Vanessa Coleman

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