Science

Humanity's first flight to Earth's closest star set to launch in July

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NASA’s Probe </a>— humanity’s first mission to the — is undergoing final preparations for its launch scheduled for July 31.

The was flown by the to Florida, where it will continue testing, and eventually undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

Probe </a>is humanity’s first mission to the After launch, it will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone.

While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth.

For the next several months, the will undergo comprehensive testing.

Just prior to being fuelled, one of the most critical elements of the spacecraft, the thermal protection system (TPS), or heat shield, will be installed.

The TPS is the breakthrough technology that will allow Probe </a>to survive the temperatures in the Sun’s corona, just 9.8 million kilometres from the surface of our star.

“There are many milestones to come for Probe </a>and the amazing team of men and women who have worked so diligently to make this mission a reality,” said Andy Driesman, Probe </a>from the in the US.

“The installation of the TPS will be our final major step before encapsulation and integration onto the launch vehicle,” said Driesman.

Probe </a>will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in

Throughout its seven-year mission, Probe </a>will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars.

Its data will also be useful in improving forecasts of major eruptions on the and the subsequent space weather events that impact technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.

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