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NASA prepares to fly into Sun's scorching atmosphere



By Joey Roulette

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) – NASA is preparing to send a sample closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft has ventured, enduring wicked heat while zooming through the solar corona to study this outermost part of The stellar atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe, a robotic spacecraft of the size of a small car, is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with Aug. 6 targeted as the launch date for the planned seven-year mission. It is set to fly into the sun's corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the solar surface, seven times less than any other spacecraft.

"To send a sample where you have not been before is ambitious send it to such brutal conditions is highly ambitious, "Nicola Fox, a project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told a news conference on Friday.

Helios 2 , which in 1976 came within 27 million miles (43 million miles). By way of comparison, the average distance from the Sun for Earth is 93 million miles (150 million km).

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system. Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet's magnetic field and can havoc with communications technology on Earth.

"It's of fundamental importance for us to predict this space," said Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

NASA's Living With a Star program is the first major mission in the world.

Venus flybys over nearly seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using solar and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

The sample, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, wants to survive a difficult heat and radiation conditions. 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces down to nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) at its closest pass.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette, Editing by Will Dunham)


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