Tampa — Nasa on Sunday blasted off its first spaceship to explore the sun, the $1.5bn Parker Solar Probe, on a mission to protect Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms. The launch of the car-sized probe aboard an enormous Delta IV-Heavy rocket lit the night sky at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3.31am (8.31 SA time). The unmanned spacecraft’s mission is to get closer than any human-made object ever to the centre of our solar system, plunging into the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission. The probe is guarded by an ultrapowerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth. When it nears the sun, the probe will travel at about 692,000km/h. That will be the fastest human-made object yet, speedy enough to travel from New York to Tokyo in a minute. “This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s Science Missio...

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