Nicola Fox, the Parker project scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, described the solar probe as "the coolest hottest mission under the sun". That's the same year the US will experience another total solar eclipse, and you'll be able to see the region of the sun where the Parker probe will be. Watch live in the player above.
We see it every day, but our sun still poses countless mysteries. That's a scant 4 percent of the 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) between Earth and the sun. "But it's really a beginning, because now we're trying to take the science and learn from the data that will change the view of our Sun forever".
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission. In space terms, that's practically shaking hands. The probe, which is described as the size of a small vehicle, features a 4.5-inch thick carbon fiber and foam shield that will help protect the spacecraft from the Sun's intense heat. The shield will keep the temperature-sensitive instruments on board the spacecraft at a comfortable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). So we'll launch from from Kennedy on Saturday (August 11) morning on our lovely Delta 4 Heavy.
The spacecraft, the size of a small vehicle, will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere and orbit at a distance of about 6.1 million kilometers from the solar surface.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth. And so how are we going to do it?
Another instrument, called FIELDS, measures and maps electric and magnetic fields within the solar atmosphere, helping scientists understand how those forces interact with the highly charged particles called plasma that make up the sun and speed out to space in what scientists call the solar wind.
"All our data on the corona so far have been remote", said Nicholeen Viall, a solar physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Closely observing this region will help experts identify the source of that coronal heating, along with the process that accelerates the solar wind at enormous speeds when it leaves the Sun. In May, NASA confirmed that, over a seven-week period a total of 1,137,202 names were submitted.
"For scientists like myself, the reward of the long, hard work will be the unique set of measurements returned by Parker", said Szabo. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer".