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The Parker Solar Probe rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles blasted out in the control centre moments after the team burst into applause at the successful lift-off.

The £1.17billion ($1.5billion) mission will study the sun's incredibly hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, as well as the charged particles that flow off the star and into the solar system.

The first pass by the sun, at a distance of about 15 million miles - three times closer than any previous spacecraft - is expected in November. She urged it to "go touch the sun!"

A mission to get close up and personal with our star has been on NASA's books since 1958.

To reach its target, the Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage had to supply enough energy to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity around the sun, allowing the spacecraft to fall into the inner solar system.

Perhaps most important for us humans, the science undertaken with the help of the Parker Solar Probe will likely improve our ability to forecast space weather - including solar flares that can disrupt signals from satellites and, in extreme cases, can even blow out transformers on our terrestrial power grids.

Image: The probe will make 24 close approaches to the sun over seven years.

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It is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth. With a communication lag time of 16 minutes, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun.

The mission, that costs about $ 1.5 bn has been over five decades in the making, and is unique for bringing a space probe closer to the sun than any man made object.

Eugene Parker is a University of Chicago professor emeritus in physics who first proposed the concept of the solar wind.

NASA project manager Andy Driesman said: "We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

The $1.5bn (£1.17bn) project is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

These poorly understood solar outbursts could potentially wipe out power to millions of people. "Why has it taken us 60 years?"

NASA said the mission to "touch the Sun" will provide scientists with vital new information about our solar system and beyond.

More knowledge of solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars. On its very first brush with the sun, it will come within 15.5 million miles (25 million kilometers), easily beating the current record of 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) set by NASA's Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.


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