NASA is expected to launch the Parker robotic space exploration craft from Cape Canaveral base in Florida on Saturday morning US time.
The spacecraft will skim the surface of the sun, coming closer than any other probe sent on previous missions. Over seven years, the probe will acquire and transmit data on the sun’s atmospheric conditions to answer questions on the movement of solar winds and particles beaming towards Earth.
Solar flares and coronal mass ejections have been known to disable satellites and radio communications, even causing risks to aircraft passengers on particular flight routes. The Parker Solar Probe will primarily rely on solar power during its mission.
The first NASA mission honouring a living person bears the name of American physicist Eugene Parker who first speculated on the theory of solar winds in 1958.
A remarkable engineering feat, the probe will endure external temperatures up to 1,377C using a 11cm-thick carbon-composite heat shield which will keep the contents inside the probe at around 30C. There will be no wax and no feathers on this attempt by mankind to fly forward and touch the sun.
Image: Parker Solar Probe prepares for launch. By NASA/Leif Heimbold / CC-BY 2.0
This story is taken from the 10 August 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.