NASA Postpones For 24 Hours Launch of Historic Spaceship to Sun
Tampa(US), Aug 11 (AFP) NASA postponed until tomorrow the launch of the first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star's sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries.
The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before liftoff, officials said.
Engineers are taking utmost caution with the USD 1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, which Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's science mission directorate, described as one of the agency's most "strategically important missions."
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.
These solar outbursts are poorly understood, but pack the potential to wipe out power to millions of people.
The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
"The sun is full of mysteries," said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
Parker, now 91, recalled that at first, some people did not believe in his theory.
Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine."
According to Zurbuchen, Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community."
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)