NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to ‘touch Sun’

This handout illustration obtained July 6, 2018 courtesy of NASA shows an artist’s conception of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the spacecraft that will fly through the Sun’s corona to trace how energy and heat move through the star’s atmosphere. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2018
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NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to ‘touch Sun’

TAAMPA: NASA counted down Friday to the launch of a $1.5 billion spacecraft that aims to plunge into the Sun’s sizzling atmosphere and become humanity’s first mission to explore a star.
The car-sized Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida early Saturday.
The 65-minute launch window opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT), and the weather forecast is 70 percent favorable for takeoff, NASA said.
The probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around Sun.
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms and disrupt Earth’s power grid.
“The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists and a professor at the University of Michigan.


The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).
The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the center of our solar system, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation here on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay a cooler 85 F (29 C).
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.
“The sun is full of mysteries,” said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer.”


The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958.
Parker, now 91, recalled that at first, some people did not believe in his theory.
But then, the launch of NASA’s Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 — becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter — proved them wrong.
“It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind,” Parker said earlier this week.
He added that he is “impressed” by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it “a very complex machine.”
Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.
Tools on board will measure high energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.
“We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move,” Fox added.
“And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun.”
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometers) per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.


MTV VMAs was a shocking event, for the wrong reasons

Updated 21 August 2018
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MTV VMAs was a shocking event, for the wrong reasons

NEW YORK: With most of music industry’s top acts absent — from Beyonce to Bruno Mars — the MTV Video Music Awards lacked star power and felt flat, and some of the winners turned heads — for the wrong reasons.

Exhibit A: Camila Cabello beat out Drake, Mars, Cardi B, Ariana Grande and Post Malone for artist of the year.

“I can’t believe this is for me,” Cabello said Monday onstage.

Neither can we.

Cabello achieved the unthinkable later in the show when she took home the top prize — video of the year — for “Havana.” Cabello’s song was a No. 1 hit and of the video of the year nominees, “Havana” was the second-most viewed clip behind Drake’s “God’s Plan.” But that’s partly since “Havana” was released last year while the other videos came out this year.

It was the night’s most shocking moment, and MTV seemed to send a message: You’re punished for not showing up and rewarded for attending.

Grande won best pop and Post Malone took home song of the year. Drake, the most successful musician of the last year, didn’t win a single award. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar were restricted to technical honors like editing, art direction, cinematography and visual effects. And Gambino picked up best direction, choreography and video with a message for his heralded video “This Is America.”

The show hit another low when Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B and DJ Khaled won best collaboration for “Dinero” — a song that has peaked at No. 80 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart — besting the record-setting hit “Meant to Be,” by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, and Mars and Cardi B’s anthemic “Finesse” remix.

Then there was the Aretha Franklin tribute, a moment Madonna made, well, all about Madonna.

The pop icon rambled and rambled about the early struggles in her career, finally informing the crowd that she sang Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at an audition that became a breakthrough for her.

“None of this would have happened without our lady of soul,” she said. “She led me where I am today ... I want to thank you Aretha for empowering all of us. ... Love live the queen.” It wasn’t clear if Madonna meant Franklin, or herself.

At least MTV did played a clip of Franklin, who died last week, singing “I Say A Little Prayer.”

The VMAs, at Radio City Music Hall in New York, also lacked oomph with its performances throughout the night: Grande was a bore during “God Is a Woman,” but added some excitement when she was joined by her mother, grandmother and cousin onstage at the end of the performance. Travis Scott, whose album is No. 1 for a second week, had strong energy while onstage, but the performance felt like it belonged more to singer James Blake, who is featured on Scott’s album and performed just as long as Scott during the segment.

There were a few highlights. Maluma, the Colombian singer who was nominated twice in the best Latin category, did have an exciting performance as he danced onstage with gyrating dancers. And Lopez started off slow — Kylie Jenner and Scott’s unamused faces perfectly captured the vibe — but she hit a strong stride when she sang old smashes like “Jenny from the Block,” “I’m Real” — where Ja Rule joined her onstage — and “All I Have,” which showed the skilled dancer’s vocal range.

But Lopez’s speech was more stirring than her performance: She was emotional as she thanked her children and beau Alex Rodriguez onstage when she earned the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement.

She was teary-eyed and looked at her “two little angels,” as she called them, and said, “I stand here stronger and better than ever ... so thank you Max and Emme.” She called Rodriguez, who filmed her performance with his phone, “my twin soul.”

“My life is sweeter and better with you in it,” she said.

Cardi B, who gave birth last month, won three awards and said people told her she was “gambling your career” when she decided to become a mother.

“I had the baby, I carried the baby and now I’m still winning awards,” she said.

She also seemed to take aim at Nicki Minaj, who while promoting her new album last week said other musicians have hired fans to listen to their music.

Cardi said she’s been blessed with fans “that you can’t buy,” looking into the camera and shouting an expletive.

Minaj won the first televised award — best hip hop — and checked comedian Tiffany Haddish for dissing girl group Fifth Harmony, now on hiatus.

After congratulating ex-Fifth Harmony member Cabello on her five nominations, Haddish said sarcastically, “Hi Fifth Harmony.” When Minaj accepted an award moments later, she looked to Haddish and said, “Don’t be coming for Fifth Harmony because Normani is that (chick).” Normani currently has her first hit apart from the group with the Khalid-assisted “Love Lies.”

Minaj, who has been a trending topic this week after she madly tweeted about why her new album debuted at No. 2 behind Travis Scott, also provided the first bleeped moment of the night when she told the audience to listen to her Apple Music radio show this week to hear “who the (expletive) of the day award is going to.”

There was just one political moment, orchestrated when Logic was joined onstage by young immigrants wearing T-shirts that read, “We are all human beings” to protest the Trump administration’s separation of migrant children from their parents after they illegally crossed the US-Mexico border. The rapper, best known for the suicide prevention anthem “1-800-273-8255,” wore a T-shirt that read, “(Expletive) the wall.”

There was one posthumous winner: Avicii, who died in April, won for best dance for “Lonely Together” alongside Rita Ora.



THE WINNERS’ LIST
Video of the year: Camila Cabella, “Havana”
Artist of the year: Camila Cabello
Song of the year: “Rockstar,” Post Malone featuring 21 Savage
Best new artist: Cardi B
Best collaboration: “Dinero,” Jennifer Lopez featuring DJ Khaled & Cardi B
Best pop: “No Tears Left to Cry,” Ariana Grande
Best hip hop: “Chun-li,” Nicki Minaj
Best Latin: “Mi Gente,” J Balvin and Willy William
Best dance: “Lonely Together,” Avicii featuring Rita Ora
Best rock: “Whatever It Takes,” Imagine Dragons
Video with a message: “This is America,” Childish Gambino
Song of summer: ““I Like It,” Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin
Best art direction: “Ape----,” (The Carters) Jan Houlevigue
Best choreography: “This is America,” (Childish Gambino), Sherrie Silver
Best cinematography: “Ape----,” (The Carters), Benoit Debie
Best direction: “This is America,” (Childish Gambino) Hiromurai
Best editing: “Lemon,” (N.E.R.D. and Rihanna), Taylor Ward
Best visual effects: “All the Stars” (Kendrick Lamar and SZA), Loris Paillier
Push artist of the year: Hayley Kiyoko