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.


Film Review: A slanted silver screen offering on the Uri attack in Kashmir

The film dramatizes a 2016 military operation.(Image Supplied)
Updated 39 min 41 sec ago
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Film Review: A slanted silver screen offering on the Uri attack in Kashmir

  • In 2016, militants stormed an Indian army base in Kashmir killing 17 soldiers
  • “Uri: The Surgical Strike,” a film that focuses on the Indian strike that followed the attack

CHENNAI: In 2016, militants stormed an Indian army base in Kashmir killing 17 soldiers. Delhi blamed Pakistan for the attack and many Bollywood producers declared that they would no longer work with Pakistani actors which had the knock-on effect of forcing director Aditya Dhar to shelve his directorial debut which was set to star Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

Fast forward to 2019 and Dhar has released “Uri: The Surgical Strike,” a film that focuses on the Indian strike that followed the attack — albeit in fictionalized form, where a personal revenge drama plays out within the more elaborate political arena.

The movie follows Indian Army Major Vihaan Shergill (Vicky Kaushal) as he is asked to lead a team of commandos deep into Pakistani territory. Elaborate planning goes into the strike, which is finally carried out after dark. Shergill, who had sought a desk job in order to take care of his ailing mother in Delhi, agrees to get into battle gear again after his brother-in-law is killed in the attack that triggered the strike. For Shergill, it is not just the honor of his country that is at stake, but also his own seething anger at having lost a close member of his family. This can be seen in all its naked starkness toward the end of the film, which attempts to weave together macro-level politics with one man’s deep-seated emotions.

Unfortunately, Dhar’s work appears a little lopsided. Pakistani officials were made to seem incompetent in the film — one character keeps burping and swallowing antacid, while another is loose lipped with vital information after he becomes intoxicated in what seem to be caricatures rather than characters.

What is most disconcerting, however, is that the film seems like a war cry — something most international filmmakers with a sense of moral responsibility try to avoid when telling war stories. To top it all off, Kaushal is not impressive and a compelling actress such as Yami Gautam (whose performance in “Vicky Donor” was superb) is wasted in an insignificant role. Of course, some of the action sequences shot in Serbia are breathtaking — a major plus point in the film.