NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe at 3:31 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. The launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is NASA's first mission to explore the sun. Powered by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, the car-sized probe will travel millions of miles to reach the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere.
— NASA (@NASA) August 12, 2018
The probe is protected by heat shields capable of withstanding temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will complete 24 orbits of the sun by 2025, reaching speeds up to 430,000 mph. The first information from the mission will be transmitted back to Earth later this year.
"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done amazing things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions," Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN. "Why has it taken us 60 years? The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it."
The Parker Solar Probe is named for Eugene Parker, a 91-year-old astrophysicist best known for theorizing the existence of solar wind in the 1950s. He was invited to watch the launch. "All I can say is, 'Wow, here we go,'" Parker said. "We're in for some learning over the next several years." Bonnie Kristian