NASA Postpones Launch Of Spacecraft To ‘Touch Sun’

Parker Solar Probe NASA sun

Parker Solar Probe NASA sun

The early morning launch countdown was halted with just one minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV rocket on its pad with the Parker Solar Probe.

The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before liftoff, officials said.

The probe won't actually land on the sun, but it will make history - getting closer than any other man-made object.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth.

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The probe is named after Gene Parker, who in 1958 wrote a paper theorizing the expansion of the solar atmosphere and solar wind.

NASA hopes the probe will help determine which parts of the sun are providing the energy source for solar winds and solar particles, and how they accelerate to such high speeds. But four minutes before that, NASA announced a "no-go" as the probe team investigated an issue.

The probe is armed with a high-powered heat shield that is 11.43 centimeters (4.5 inches) thick.

Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.

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The probe is equipped with a 4 1/2-inch thick carbon-carbon heat shield created to withstand temperatures of about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

During its nominal mission lifetime of just under 7 years, Parker Solar Probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun - reaching within 3.8 million miles (roughly 61,15,508 km) of the Sun's surface at closest approach.

Nicky Fox, a project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: "The sun is full of mysteries". "Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to almost half the speed of light, and we don't know why". The agency is now targeting Sunday for the launch of the spacecraft which is created to go all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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