Last-minute technical problem delays NASA’s flight to sun

Last-minute technical problem delays NASA’s flight to sun

A last-minute technical problem yesterday has delayed NASA's unprecedented flight to the sun.

Once launched, the Parker solar probe may contend with temperatures upwards of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1371 C) when it reaches the sun's atmosphere - also known as the corona.

The probe will fly through the sun's corona to gather data on the sun's great mysteries, such as the solar winds that create aurorae on Earth and disrupt satellites and power grids.

"The team received a gaseous helium reg pressure alarm that kicked them out", said Mic Woltman with NASA's Launch Services Program.

Reaching the required speed means the Parker Solar Probe needs one of the most powerful rockets ever built.

"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists and a professor at the University of MI.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

Among the questions NASA is seeking to answer are why the corona is hotter than the sun's surface, as well as why the atmospheres is continually expanding and continually accelerating away from the star. The $1.5 billion mission is already a week late because of rocket issues.

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The probe will be controlled from the Mission Operations Centre based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL), which is where NASA handles its unmanned missions.

"The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles", explained NASA.

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.

"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman.

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

"And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun".

The probe is set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in history.

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