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Parker Solar Probe blasts off to ‘touch the sun’

Parker Solar Probe launch
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket sends NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spaceward from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA via YouTube)

NASA today sent a super-shielded spacecraft known as the Parker Solar Probe on a mission that will take it closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has flown, with the probe’s namesake, a 91-year-old physicist, watching the launch.

A blazing United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket rose into the night sky from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:31 a.m. ET (12:31 a.m. PT), one day after concerns over a data glitch forced a postponement.

Three rocket stages powered the probe on the first leg of its sunward journey.

“All I can say is, wow, here we go, we’re in for some learning over the next several years,” University of Chicago solar physicist Eugene Parker said just after liftoff.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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