Achieving a new feet in carbon heat shield technology, NASA has made it possible for a spacecraft to actually travel through the corona – the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere – without burning up. The Parker Solar Probe, launched into space on Sunday, August 12, 2018 will be the first to use this technology and send data from the vicinity of the sun by autumn.

“Fly baby girl, fly!” the scientist behind the project, Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University, tweeted just before liftoff (video above). She urged it to “go touch the sun”. (To get updates from the probe, follow the NASA Sun & Space twitter page.)

The spacecraft will get as close as just 6.2 million kilometers from the surface of the sun, which is nearly 150 million kilometers away from the earth. It is named for the 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who proposed the existence of the solar wind – a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting off the sun – 60 years ago. He was among those present at the launch.