NASA’s Parker Solar probe to orbit sun closer than any previous spacecraft

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NASA's Parker Solar probe to orbit sun closer than any previous spacecraft

NASA’s ambitious mission to study the sun will have to wait for another 24 hours. Technical problems meant the spacecraft missed the launch window early Saturday morning.

The Parker Solar probe will orbit the sun seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

CGTN’s John Zarrella reports from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Sun. Sixty years ago scientists first proposed a mission to study it. Back then, the technology simply did not exist.

Now it does. At least, that’s the hope. During its seven-year mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun two dozen times. It’s closest approach within six million kilometers (3,728,227 miles) of the surface, that’s seven times closer than any spacecraft ever.

Off the surface, in the corona, temperatures are thousands of degrees hotter than on the surface. Laws of physics say that shouldn’t happen. And little is known about solar winds that begin as a gentle breeze but zip by Earth at hundreds of kilometers per second.

Disturbances in this solar wind, called space weather, can interrupt communications, change the orbit of satellites and

As Parker makes its closest approach, the spacecraft’s state of the art carbon heat shield must stand up to temperatures of thirteen hundred degrees Celsius. On board sensors keep the heat shield lined up just right.

Parker will pass through the corona at a stunning 700,000 kilometers per hour (434,960 mph). At that speed, you could fly from Washington, D.C. to Tokyo in under one minute. The probe is also carrying a microchip containing more than one million names. Star Trek actor William Shatner promoted the sign-up effort.

Going to a region of the solar system never explored, Parker is considered one of the most daring missions of discovery ever undertaken.

 

John Horack on NASA’s ambitious mission to study the sun