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

In Just One Week, NASA Will Launch a Spacecraft to 'Touch the Sun'

Nasa is set to launch a space exploration mission this week that will attempt to "touch the Sun" and could offer vital clues about how solar energy works.

At about 4 a.m. on August 11, the Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral carrying ISʘIS, an instrument suite led by Princeton's David McComas to measure energetic particles from the sun's corona and the solar wind.

The probe "will travel through the sun's atmosphere, closer to its surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions - and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star", NASA said in a statement.

To get close to the Sun and orbit it at such a short distance, the Parker probe will be accelerated by the Delta IV Heavy, the rocket in service with the highest power. The launch window opens at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday.

NASA is getting ready for one hot mission.

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As soon as the probe is launched, it must first get a gravity assist, so it will loop around Venus and then slow down towards the sun. At its closest point, the probe will come within 4 million miles of the star's surface, placing it within the corona.

The solar probe is already prepped for the flight, reveals a new NASA photo that shows the spacecraft snugged inside its fairing atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

Their first close encounter is slated for November 5, when the Parker spacecraft will begin its approach to the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield. 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.

While Nasa scientists have meant to launch a solar mission for decades, cuts made to the space programme by successive presidents have hampered development, while "only recent technological advances in cooling systems and fault management have made it possible" says The Independent. Also on the agenda is an investigation into what triggers the coronal mass ejections, eruptions of scalding, charged material seeping into interplanetary space.

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