NASA delays launch of Parker Solar Probe 24 hours

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

UPDATE: NASA postpones launch of Parker Solar Probe

After a last-minute technical problem forced NASA to postpone by 24 hours the launch of its first mission to explore the Sun, the agency plans to try again Sunday.

The Parker Solar Probe was to touch our hot star with its lift off scheduled for August 11 from Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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

During the approach closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the main objective of an unmanned probe to investigate the crown - an unusual atmosphere around the Sun.

"The Parker Solar Probe's observations will help us answer questions like: Why is the corona a couple million degrees hotter than the sun?"

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Reaching the required speed means the Parker Solar Probe needs one of the most powerful rockets ever built.

The spacecraft will thoroughly study the corona - the region of the Sun only seen from Earth during total solar eclipses.

The unmanned probe is named after Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old pioneering solar astrophysicist, and the United States space agency has coined it as the first mission to "touch the Sun".

The Parker Solar Probe was set to launch this morning just before 9am United Kingdom time from Florida's Cape Canaveral, but an alarm raised during the 65-minute weather window could not be resolved before time elapsed. "But we have to go there". It's the first time NASA mission has been named after a living person.

But getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down - for which Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus.

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In an orbit this close to the Sun, the real challenge is to keep the spacecraft from burning up.

"As we go from the surface of the Sun, which is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and move up into the corona, we find ourselves quickly at millions of degrees", he said.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

Parker, now 91, recalled that at first some people did not believe in his theory.

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine". The FIELDS instrument will map out the sun's electric and magnetic fields, measuring waves and turbulence in the star's atmosphere to help scientists understand how magnetic field lines can explosively snap apart and re-align. To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years.

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