NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft destined to become the fastest man-made object ever as it gets closer to the sun than we've been before.
Over the next seven years, Parker will fly directly through the Sun's roasting hot outer atmosphere in a bid to unlock some of the solar system's greatest secrets.
Originally slated to fly in the small hours of Saturday morning, the Parker Solar Probe blasted off Sunday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 03:31 am EDT / 00:31 PT / 8.31 UMT.
Thousands of spectators turned up at the launch site on Sunday, including Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist the spacecraft is named after.
The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.
It eventually will get within 3.8 million of the sun's surface, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible.
Dr Nicky Fox of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said: "I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart".
"The spacecraft must operate in the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees", Brown told ABC News via email.
NASA on Sunday blasted off a $1.5 billion spacecraft toward the Sun on a historic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of unsafe solar storms.
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"The outer sun-facing side of the shield will reach 2,500 Fahrenheit at closest approach to the sun".
Parker Solar Probe, which is expected to complete 24 orbits of the Sun, will use Venus to adjust its course.
The car-sized probe 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.
It is due tol fly past Venus in October, which will set up the first solar encounter in November. Parker watched the launch at Cape Canaveral and said it was his first time seeing a rocket blast off in person.
"All I can say is "Wow, here we go, we're in for some learning over the next several years", he said when asked how he felt. By the time Parker gets to its 22nd orbit of the sun, it will be even deeper into the corona and traveling at a record-breaking 430,000 miles per hour.
"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things, which I don't know yet, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.
Zurbuchen considers the sun the most important star in our universe - it's ours, after all - and so this is one of NASA's big-time strategic missions.
"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said. His 1958 paper was initially ridiculed but has come to be central to our understanding of the solar system and beyond.