NASA Launches Mission to 'Touch the Sun'

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NASA on Saturday postponed the launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, created to probe the Sun.

NASA says a red pressure alarm for the gaseous helium system went off, prompting the launch controller to order, "Hold, hold, hold".

By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the unmanned probe's main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun.

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

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The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles. On Wednesday, NASA announced it will launch the probe in summer 2018 to explore the solar atmosphere.

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

A $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe mission will fly through the sun's outer atmosphere within 6.4 million km of the big hot star repeatedly, gathering key insights about solar structure, activity, atmosphere, solar winds and other features. Engineers tried to identifiy the problem, but the launch window - when a spacecraft can take off in the right direction due to the Earth's rotation - closed before they could make progress.

This image made available by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 depicts NASA's Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun.

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The probe's seven-year journey will bring it to within 6.16 million kilometers (3.83 million miles) of the sun's surface.

"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman.

The probe is protected by a 4in-thick shield that constantly repositions itself between the sun's power and the scientific instruments on board.

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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