NASA probe to fly into sun’s atmosphere

MIAMI: A new NASA mission aims to brush by the sun, coming closer than any spacecraft in history to its scorching heat and radiation in order to reveal how stars are made, the US space agency said Wednesday.

After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will become the first to fly directly into the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona.

The plan for the unmanned spacecraft is to orbit within 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) of the sun’s surface.

Temperatures in that region exceed 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,377 Celsius), for which the spacecraft is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield.

Roughly the size of a small car, the probe will make seven flybys of the sun over a seven-year period, in what NASA described as a “mission of extremes.”

Traveling at a speed of 430,000 mph, the spacecraft will move fast — like going from New York City to Tokyo in less than a minute.

Scientists hope its data will improve forecasts of solar storms and space weather events that affect life on Earth, satellites and astronauts in space.

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