Countdown restarts as NASA's Parker Solar Probe ready for today's launch

The probe is heading up on Nasa's most powerful rocket

The probe is heading up on Nasa's most powerful rocket

Engineers are taking utmost caution with the $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".

NASA called off the launch of its ambitious Parker Solar Probe mission to the sun just minutes before an early-morning liftoff Saturday (Aug. 11) due to a glitch with the spacecraft's giant Delta IV Heavy rocket.

Once on its way, the Parker probe will venture closer to our star than any other spacecraft.

It is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure extraordinary levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth. The sun's gravity will accelerate the spacecraft to record-breaking speeds during such encounters; at its fastest, the Parker Solar Probe will go about 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 km/h), NASA officials said.

NASA is all set to launch its historic small car-size probe to "touch the Sun" from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3.33 am EDT (1 pm India time) on Saturday.

The probe, the size of a small auto, is due to make a seven-year mission to skim through the sun's atmosphere, enduring temperatures of 1,300C.

At Parker Solar Probe's closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach almost 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.

This image made available by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 depicts NASA's Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun.

Parker, now 91, recalled that at first some people did not believe in his theory.

Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.

"The Parker Solar Probe's observations will help us answer questions like: Why is the corona a couple million degrees hotter than the sun?"

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