The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Sunday to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.
Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31am EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33am, the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.
The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.
“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. ...