NASA successfully launched Parker Solar Probe

Initially, NASA's Parker Solar Probe was slated to leave Earth on Saturday morning, but a hitch about two minutes before the launch countdown kept the rocket nailed to the tarmac of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

One rotation of the Earth later, the NASA probe - designed, built and operated by the Hopkins lab - successfully lifted off at 3:31 a.m. Sunday and began its hurtle toward the sun.

Scientists expect the Parker Solar Probe to cover the 89-million-mile distance to the Sun's Corona by November, after using Venus's gravitational pull as a slingshot towards the star in October, Sky News reports.

The probe is set to become the fastest artificial object in history, careering across our Solar System at 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - fast enough to go from NY to Tokyo in under a minute.

The car-sized spacecraft will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere, about four million miles from its surface - and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, thanks to its innovative Thermal Protection System.

Dr Nicky Fox watches the launch on Sunday with Dr Eugene Parker, after whom the Parker Solar Probe is named.

The Parker Solar Probe will be able to gather pictures, information on magnetic fields and solar wind particles.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958.

"I'm just so glad to be here with him", said NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen.

The incredibly resilient vessel, vaguely shaped like a lightbulb the size of a small auto, was launched early in the morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

According to the NASA website, the Parker Solar Probe's path through the corona - the Sun's outer atmosphere - will allow it to observe the acceleration of the solar wind that Parker predicted, just as it makes a critical transition from slower than the speed of sound to faster than it.

"Today's launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort", said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

NASA on Twitter even demonstrated how the carbon-composite shield will withstand the exreme temperature from the Sun. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun?

Halekas' helped to design SWEAP, which stands for Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons. Find us on Facebook too!

"Recent advances in materials science gave us the material to fashion a heat shield in front of the spacecraft not only to withstand the extreme heat of the Sun, but to remain cool on the backside".

Back in March, NASA invited members of the public to submit their names to be included on a memory card that is now mounted on the Parker Probe as it hurtles through space.

The first week of the mission will require the spacecraft to perform some tasks.

  • Joe Gonzales