Nasa mission: Spacecraft rockets to touch the Sun for a closer look

Parker Solar Probe launch

Parker Solar Probe launch

Scientists have been debating these questions for decades but NASA said technology has only come far enough in the past few decades to make the solar mission a reality.

To handle the heat it has been covered with a special 4.5 inch thick carbon-composite shield capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C.

"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, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI. That will be seven times closer than previous spacecraft.

The probe will be 3.9 million miles from the sun's surface, making it the closest spacecraft to the sun's surface in history.

"The unique requirements of this mission made the Delta IV Heavy the flawless launch vehicle to deliver Parker Solar Probe into orbit with the highest precision", said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

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If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The spellbinding footage shows Parker's engines ignite propelling the probe towards the sun to start its seven-year-long mission to explore the Sun.

"The only way we can do that is to finally go up and touch the sun", the $1.5 billion mission's project scientist, Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, told reporters in advance of today's launch.

It took one of the most powerful rockets in the world to get the mission moving - not because the probe is large or heavy, but because of the speed required to cruise through the solar system.

Looking on at launch was Eugene Parker, the University of Chicago astrophysicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. "Why is the corona hotter than the surface of the sun?"

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The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

Running 24 hours late because of a last-minute countdown glitch Saturday, the trek began at 3:31 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Sunday when the 233-foot-tall Delta's three hydrogen-fueled Aerojet-Rocketdyne RS-68A main engines ignited with a rush of brilliant orange flame and quickly throttled up to 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

He added: "It's a whole new phase and it's gonna be fascinating throughout.and we're just waiting for the data now so the experts can get busy because there's a lot of data will be coming in". All I can say is: "'Wow, here we go.' We're in for some learning over the next seven years".

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

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. "The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it".

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