NASA on Sunday blasted off a $1.5 billion spacecraft toward the sun on a historic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms.
“Three, two, one, and liftoff!” said a NASA commentator as the Parker Solar Probe lit up the dark night sky aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT).
The unmanned spacecraft aims to get closer than any human-made object in history to the centre of our solar system.
The probe is designed to plunge into the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.
It is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.
NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to “touch the sun.”
In reality, it should come within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the sun’s surface, close enough to study the curious phenomenon of the solar wind and the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, which is 300 times hotter than its surface.—AFP