What you need to know about NASA's mission to touch the sun

The spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun. Pic John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

Additionally, the Sun is the only star we can study up-close, and any insights we glean from the Parker Solar Probe could help us better understand how other stars function.

At 3:33 a.m. EDT, the Parker Solar Probe will launch from Space Launch Complex 37 on Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Parker Solar Probe, named for the scientist who first theorized about the existence of solar winds, is expected to get as close as we've ever been to our local star.

Scientists hope to unlock mysteries such as why the sun's corona, the outermost layer of its atmosphere, is hotter than its surface.

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The car-sized spacecraft will fly as fast as 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made spacecraft ever, according to NASA. Its first close solar approach will be on 5 November. The spacecraft and its suite of delicate instruments will be protected from the sun's extreme heat by a carbon fiber heat shield.

Successive flybys will be closer, culminating, in 2024, with a series of encounters just 3.8m miles above the sun's surface.

"Since Parker Solar Probe will skim through the sun's atmosphere, it only needs to drop 53,000 miles per hour of sideways motion to reach its destination, but that's no easy feat", NASA notes.

Nasa's new solar spacecraft is so indestructable that parts of it will be circling the Sun until the Solar System ends, eight billion years from now, scientists have said. The probe will contain four instrument packages created to, among other things, trace the movement of energy and heat within the corona and help scientists figure out what accelerates solar energetic particles and solar wind.

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