Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Solar wind can create a whole host of issues for humans - from messing with Global Positioning System communications to exposing astronauts in space to high radiation - and the Parker Solar Probe is launching on a mission to figure out where it comes from.

NASA will send a spacecraft on a mission to get a closer look at the sun.

NASA's plans for the probe include multiple orbits of the sun, repeatedly slingshotting itself around the star and gathering vital science data each time it makes its approach. "These gravity assists will draw Parker Solar Probe's orbit closer to the sun for a record approach of just 3.83 million miles from the sun's visible surface on the final orbits".

After launch, the spacecraft will head toward the sun's atmosphere, known as the solar corona, made up of super hot plasma.

After it launches, the probe will travel at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour, the fastest speed ever achieved by a spacecraft. "We're a technological society, so we have to understand this to better understand its impact and ultimately to be able to predict it just like we do weather on Earth".

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The spacecraft is named for Eugene Parker, the scientist who first predicted the existence of the solar wind - fast-moving solar particles that stream through the entire solar system.

Solar winds create the Earth's aurora borealis, but they also can be harmful to astronauts in space and impact communication on Earth.

In order to combat the intense temperatures, the probe has been covered with a carbon composite coated ceramic capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C (3,002F).

NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend.

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