In the wee hours of Sunday morning, NASA is scheduled to launch the Parker Solar Probe for a seven-year mission to study the thing at the center of life here on Earth: the sun.
The spacecraft will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, traveling up to 430,000 miles per hour on its journey around the ever-important star.
After its launch was scrubbed on Saturday, the Parker Solar Probe lifted off at 3:31 a.m. ET Sunday. Watch a replay in the player above.
As Anna Kusmer wrote for the PBS NewsHour in July:
Sending a spacecraft from Earth to a stationary target like the sun is like trying to throw a dart from a speeding train. That’s because Earth is barreling through space at 19 miles per second, or 67,000 miles per hour. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun…
Over the next seven years, as it circles the sun, the probe will wrap around Venus seven times, each time slowing down and swooping closer to the sun. In seven years, the probe will be within four million miles of the sun’s surface. In space terms, that’s practically shaking hands.
To survive the heat, the probe is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick heat shield made of reinforced carbon. While the shield will be facing temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft will be at a toasty but tolerable 85 degrees.
The spacecraft will collect data on the sun’s atmosphere, known as the solar corona, as well as its magnetic fields. Scientists hopes that this field trip will expose crucial details about solar wind — the clouds of charged gas that bombard our solar system, including Earth. For more, check out Kusmer’s story: ‘NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will ‘shake’ hands with sun, thanks to small push from Venus‘