NASA spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet

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NASA hopes the probe - which was named in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago professor who successfully predicted the existence of solar wind in 1958 - will help scientists crack some of the sun's greatest mysteries, including the secret of the corona's incredibly high temperatures and the origins of and the mechanism behind the acceleration of solar wind.

The probe's destination is the sun's corona, which it will fly through over two dozen times, eventually coming within less than 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of our star's surface.

The probe, which aims to give Nasa an up-close look at how our nearest and dearest star works, will travel at 430,000 miles an hour - faster than any spacecraft in history.

NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

Over the next seven years, there will be 24 close approaches to the sun.

The entire project cost R20.5-billion and will continue until 2025.

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"Go, baby, go!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University shouted at liftoff.

"The spacecraft must operate in the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees", Brown told ABC News via email.

"The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold", Nasa, said in a statement.

The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.

These solar outbursts are poorly understood, but pack the potential to wipe out power to millions of people.

More knowledge of solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

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No wonder scientists consider it the coolest, hottest mission under the sun, and what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday as NASA noted.

NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, was thrilled not only with the launch, but Parker's presence.

"We are ready. We have the flawless payload". Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only recently did the heat shield technology capable of protecting sensitive instruments become available.

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

No human-made vehicle has ever come so close - leading the American space agency to claim the probe will "touch" the sun.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.

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