NASA's Parker Solar Probe embarks on a mission to 'touch' the sun

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel.

A NASA probe is about to launch on a mission to the sun in the name of protecting the Earth.

The Parker Solar Probe will endure tremendous heat while zooming through the solar corona to study this outermost part of the stellar atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind.

The car-sized probe, which will fly closer to the sun than any other man-made object, is set to blast off at 3:33am eastern daylight time (8:33am BST) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 11. It's the fastest any man-made object will have ever traveled and the probe will likely hold that title for a long time.

NASA scientists also hope to answer one ongoing mystery: why the sun's atmosphere is 300 times hotter than the surface itself. "We're a technological society, so we have to understand this to better understand its impact and ultimately to be able to predict it just like we do weather on Earth".

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After making its closest approach in late 2024, the spacecraft will run out of fuel and be destroyed. Disturbances in its solar wind can have an impact on near-Earth space, which can affect our planet's satellites.

"As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean".

A heat shield made using carbon composite coated with ceramic will protect it from the extreme conditions, Nasa says.

The powerful rocket is needed to propel the payload, NASA's Parker Solar Probe, to the sun.

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