Lift-off! NASA launches Parker Solar Probe to 'touch the sun'

We just got one step closer to “touching” the sun.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a NASA rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe was successfully launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — marking the beginning of a seven-year mission that aims to get the probe closer to the sun than any human-made object has gone before.

The car-sized probe was launched aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket at 3.31 a.m. Eastern on Sunday after an initial launch attempt on Saturday was scrubbed because of a last-minute technical glitch

NASA says the probe will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere over the course of its mission and will get to within about four million miles of the star’s surface.

RELATED: NASA launches Parker Solar Probe to 'touch the sun'

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NASA launches Parker Solar Probe to 'touch the sun'
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NASA launches Parker Solar Probe to 'touch the sun'
CAPE CANAVERAL - AUGUST 8: In this NASA handout, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket payload fairing is seen with the NASA and Parker Solar Probe emblems, August 8, 2018 at Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe will travel through the Suns atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - AUGUST 10: In this NASA handout, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen, left, American solar astrophysicist, and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, Eugene Parker, center, and President and Chief Executive Officer for United Launch Alliance Tony Bruno pose for a group photo in front of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA's Parker Solar onboard, at Launch Complex 37 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 10, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living individual. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen, left, American solar astrophysicist, and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, Eugene Parker, center, and President and Chief Executive Officer for United Launch Alliance Tory Bruno pose for a group photo in front of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA's Parker Solar on-board, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living individual. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket poised on Space Launch Complex-37 on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, that will carry NASA's Parker Solar Probe to an interplanetary trajectory to the sun. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: This long exposure photograph shows the Mobile Service Tower being rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard is seen shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard is seen shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 11: In this handout provided by NASA, The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe is illuminated ahead of launch, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 10: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard is seen shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 11: In this handout provided by NASA, The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 11: In this handout provided by NASA, The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 11: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, is reflected in water on the launch pad, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanitys first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 12: In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
NASA's Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., August 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Brown
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The spacecraft will face heat and radiation “like no spacecraft before it,” the agency said. The probe’s 4.5-inch-thick, 8-foot-wide carbon-composite shield has been built to endure temperatures of up than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA hopes the probe — which was named in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago professor who successfully predicted the existence of solar wind in 1958 — will help scientists crack some of the sun’s greatest mysteries, including the secret of the corona’s incredibly high temperatures and the origins of and the mechanism behind the acceleration of solar wind.

“The Sun’s energy is always flowing past our world,” Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission.“And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are beautiful ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere. We don’t have a strong understanding of the mechanisms that drive that wind toward us, and that’s what we’re heading out to discover.”

Scientists have been debating these questions for decades but NASA said technology has only come far enough in the past few decades to make the solar mission a reality.

Unlike many planetary exploration missions, which primarily orbit the planet itself, the Parker probe will be swooping closer and closer to the sun by way of an elliptical orbit that will include seven “gravity-assist” flybys of Venus.

The probe will reach tremendous speeds as it orbits the sun. According to NASA, its top speed is expected to hit 430,000 miles per hour. That’s “fast enough to get from New York City to Tokyo in under a minute,” the agency said.

According to CNET, the probe is expected to reach the sun in November.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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