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What you need to know about NASA's mission to touch the sun

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What you need to know about NASA's mission to touch the sun

Nasa's new solar spacecraft is so indestructable that parts of it will be circling the Sun until the Solar System ends, eight billion years from now, scientists have said.

NASA is close to launching a spacecraft on a voyage to the sun that will give scientists their closest-ever view of the star.

NASA's plans for the probe include multiple orbits of the sun, repeatedly slingshotting itself around the star and gathering vital science data each time it makes its approach. Disturbances in its solar wind can have an impact on near-Earth space, which can affect our planet's satellites.

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

The probe will hurtle through the sizzling solar atmosphere and come within just 6 million km from the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

Our yellow dwarf star is, in many ways, a mystery.

To help the public visualize the incredible speed, NASA says something traveling that fast could go from Philadelphia to Washington DC in a single second.

Sixty years ago, a young astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, Eugene Parker, proposed the existence of solar wind.

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket is providing the muscle.

The memory card also contains photos of Dr. Parker and his groundbreaking 1958 scientific paper on solar wind.

It is a fast-paced mission, with the first Venus encounter occurring less than two months after liftoff, in early October, and the first brush with the Sun in November. So really the only way we can now do it is to do this daring mission to plunge into the corona.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the USA space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface.

When the probe begins its final orbits it will be moving at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, according to NASA.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth.

"The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before", Parker Solar Probe scientist Adam Szabo said in a statement.

We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star.

A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. Ultimately, the more we can learn about the Sun, the better.

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