NASA's mission to 'touch the sun' starts tomorrow

This rendering demonstrates the anticipated approach of the Parker Solar Probe to the sun’s atmosphere

This rendering demonstrates the anticipated approach of the Parker Solar Probe to the sun’s atmosphere

"According to a statement from Nasa, the probe is due to orbit within six-and-a-half million kilometres of the Sun's "surface", where the probe will "(face) heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history".

You've already heard plenty about the Parker Solar Probe over the past year or so and with good reason. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer". For seven years it will orbit at around 3.38 million miles from the star's surface, where temperatures reach 1,400C.

After it launches, the probe will travel at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour, the fastest speed ever achieved by a spacecraft.

During its years in space, the Parker is expected to reveal never-before-seen aspects of the sun's atmosphere and the star as a whole.

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

On each close approach to the sun, the probe will sample the solar wind, study the sun's corona, and provide close-up observations from around the star.

Solar wind can create a whole host of issues for humans - from messing with Global Positioning System communications to exposing astronauts in space to high radiation - and the Parker Solar Probe is launching on a mission to figure out where it comes from. If we're able to learn more about its origin and behavior, it might be possible to predict when space weather might occur. These disturbances can also create complications as we attempt to send astronauts and spacecraft farther away from the Earth.

Scientists have had to take great care to make sure that the Parker Solar Probe doesn't burn up in the process of conducting its important science.

The spacecraft will make use of an 8ft-long heat shield known as the Thermal Protection System (TPS), which has been made using a carbon composite coated with ceramic to cope with the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations.

NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend.

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