The fastest human-made object launches for the Sun this Saturday

The fastest human-made object launches for the Sun this Saturday

NASA plans to use the data it beams back to figure out how we can better prepare for solar winds, which are streams of charged particles emitted by the corona. Particularly strong winds could change satellites' orbits, interfere with their instruments and even affect power grids here on Earth. If we want to head deeper into space in the future, we must first study how solar winds can affect our vehicles. Besides, we need to take a closer look at the star nearest to us if we want to learn more about the other stars in the universe. Finally, studying the sun could shed light on the origin of life on Earth, since it's our source of light and heat.

Before the Parker Solar Probe can soar as close as 3.83 million miles above the sun's surface, though, it first has to spend seven years encircling the sun again and again. It will use Venus' gravity to fly closer to the sun each orbit while picking up speed in the process. By the time it reaches its final orbits, it will be zooming around the sun at 430,000 mph.

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If you're wondering, Parker will be able to withstand the sun's intense heat, thanks to a heat shield made of carbon composite foam and plates. Some of its instruments use an alloy with a very, very high melting point, and it has an effective cooling system that can keep its arrays, instruments and mechanisms cool and functional.

NASA will launch Parker on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. If you don't mind waking up early to witness the historic launch, fire up NASA TV on August 11th before the launch window opens at 3:33 AM Eastern time.