US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sunday launched its mission to the sun - ‘Parker Solar Probe’. The satellite lifted off from its Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA said.
The world’s first mission to touch the Sun is set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in the history of mankind, traveling around the Sun at a speed of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph).
It is the first spacecraft to be named after a living person, astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described solar wind in 1958.
The Delta-IV Heavy rocket, which carries the Probe was launched at 07:31 GMT on Sunday.
“Designing something to go fast in space is pretty much the same as you would design it to go slow in space; space has nothing to really impede its progress,” Parker Solar Probe project manager Andrew Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said during a NASA news conference on Saturday.
The Parker Solar Probe is designed to perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona. The corona holds the answers to many of scientists’ unprecedented questions about the Sun’s activity and processes.
During its closest approach to the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will leave other speedy spacecraft eating metaphorical dust.
The Parker Solar Probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.
In December 2024, the probe will dip its closest point to the sun, coming within 3.83 million miles (6 million km) from the Sun’s broiling ‘surface’.
(With inputs from agencies)