As NASA’s Parker Solar Probe lit up the skies with its dazzling light at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station earlier this morning, scientists found themselves growing quickly emotional as the probe began its journey toward the sun.
As Live Science reports, mission scientist Nicky Fox found herself growing teary-eyed at the sight of the Parker Solar Probe launch, explaining that, “It was very emotional. I was speechless and I’m not normally speechless.”
While the launch itself was spectacular, as soon as the probe successfully detached from the rocket’s third stage and hit space, wild applause could be heard coming from the press area as the first communication from the Parker Solar Probe was received.
Thomas Zurbuchen, who is part of NASA’s science mission directorate, was elated that the probe was on its way to the sun.
“The spacecraft is power positive and that’s where we want to be. Whenever you’re there, you take a breather and then you start working.”
The mission to the sun is one which has been in the hearts and minds of scientists for 60 years now, and while the original launch date for the probe had been planned for July 31, a host of technical problems kept the Parker Solar Probe grounded. In fact, just minutes before the spacecraft was scheduled to launch on August 11, scientists quickly heeded the helium pressure alarm that sounded from the Delta IV Heavy and delayed the launch until this morning to address the issue.
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Nicky Fox described the emotional scene yesterday when the launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe failed to go off as scheduled, which made it all the more thrilling to see it finally head majestically into space this morning toward the sun.
“There was no emotional roller coaster like there was yesterday. The sky was waiting for us, Venus was waiting for us, and it was just an amazing sight to see. It took a while for the Delta IV Heavy to clear the pad, but I was prepared for that, so I didn’t panic.”
The probe was given its name in a mark of dedication to the solar scientist Eugene Parker, who is now 91, and this is the first time that NASA has chosen to use the name of a living person for one of their probes. Parker, of course, happily watched the spacecraft’s launch, explaining that “there’s nothing like a rocket launch live.”
Over the coming weeks, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be running a host of different tests so that scientists can make certain that the instrument suites on board are working as they should, and on its way to the sun the probe will make its very first fly-by of Venus on October 2.