Nasa probe blasts off to the Sun after 60-year project

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NASA on Sunday successfully launched the Parker Solar Probe, the U.S. space agency's historic small car-size probe to 'touch the Sun, ' from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

A triple-core Delta IV Heavy rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral just after 3:30 a.m. Sunday, momentarily turning night into day in a spectacle visible for miles along the Florida coast.

It is set to fly into the Sun's corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) of the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed "the bravest little instrument", is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to "scoop up samples" of the Sun's atmosphere, according to Professor Justin Kasper of the University of MI.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the auto, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season.

Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven "gravity-assist" flybys of Venus.

One of those watching the historic moment was Dr Eugene Parker, the now 91-year-old scientist who first suggested the possibility of solar winds in 1958 and who the craft is named after.

Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun's bright face during total solar eclipses.

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"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done incredible things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN. That's nearly 10 times closer than Mercury gets, and seven times closer than any previous probe. It is the first mission ever to attempt to touch the sun.

"Wow, here we go".

It was the first time NASA named a spacecraft after someone still alive, and Parker wasn't about to let it take off without him.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things which I don't know yet, and which will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said.

Parker, the probe, will start shattering records this fall. "The spacecraft will hurtle around the Sun at speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour".

Its maximum velocity around the sun will reach 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object to orbit a celestial body.

"Eugene Parker had the vision to recognise the possibilities discussed in my thesis, and the magnanimity to write a glowing review of a thesis for an unknown student from a far away country - a PhD thesis that contradicted one of his own theories", he said.

"We've had to wait so long for our technology to catch up with our dreams", Fox said.

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