Home » There’s A New Record For The Fastest Human-Made Object: 394,736 MPH!

There’s A New Record For The Fastest Human-Made Object: 394,736 MPH!

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I know we’re primarily an automotive site, but we’re really a site for all manner of vehicles. We cover airplanes, trains, motorcycles, and I’m not opposed to covering the occasional elevator or moving sidewalk, if, say, the Otis people want to drop off a press elevator at my house. We also cover spacecraft as well, which brings us to the thing I want to tell you about today. You see, there’s been a new speed record set, and it’s a big one, because it’s the fastest that any human-built anything has ever gone. The anything in question here is the Parker Solar Probe, and from what I can tell, it seems to have accomplished this feat without any racing stripes whatsoever. Just think how fast this baby would go if it had some badass stripes on it! I’d say NASA should send a mission to put stripes on it, but that wouldn’t work, because this thing is just too damn fast to catch now. How fast? It’s almost 400,000 miles per hour.

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The Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is currently in a heliocentric orbit and is, at this moment, only 4.51 million miles above the surface of the sun, the closest any human-made thing has gotten to the sun. It’s planned to go even closer – up to 3.9 million miles – as part of its mission to study the sun and collecting data as if flies through the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, which is also the name of a well-respected old Toyota.

But, right now, we’re talking about speed, raw speed, top speed, and as of this moment, the Parker Space Probe broke its former record and set a new one at 394,736 mph. That’s 0.059% the speed of light! That’s, what, like Warp 0.06? By comparison, the Voyager probes that are currently speeding out of our solar system and into interstellar space are going at about a tenth the speed of the Parker Solar probe, about 38,000 mph. The International Space Station orbits the Earth at about 17,500 mph, and the fastest aircraft – the NASA/US Air Force X-15 – only creeps along at 4,520 mph. This isn’t even close.

Even better, the probe is expected to reach speeds of up to 430,000 mph by 2025, so this thing isn’t done setting records yet.

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Now, the big relevant question for us is is this a vehicle? It’s an uncrewed probe, essentially a robot that’s been launched at the sun. If it’s not designed to carry people, can it still count as a vehicle? Generally, we also call objects designed to transport cargo as vehicles, too, and if we count the cargo of scientific instruments and sensors aboard the Parker Solar Probe as cargo, then perhaps it can be considered a vehicle? As far as vehicles go, it weighs about the same as an old air-cooled VW Beetle, around 1600 pounds, and yet manages to go about 394,656 mph faster than one.

The way it achieved these speeds is novel for a vehicle as well, as most of the speed doesn’t come from the work of any onboard engines. Instead, speed has been gained via a series of gravity-assist slingshot-type maneuvers from six flybys of the planet Venus. Here’s an explanation about how these sorts of things work:

If you’d rather Neal DeGrasse Tyson explains it to you, okay, we can do that:

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That’s why this probe is nearly all scientific instruments and heat shields and there’s minimal propulsion systems. In fact, the only propulsion system the probe has are a dozen 4.4 newton hydrazine thrusters. Each of those only provides about a pound of force, and they’re used to steer and direct the probe.

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Sure, there’s going to be so much new data about the sun collected from this probe that it’s likely people’s entire careers could be built from just the results of what the Parker discovers. But, at this moment, it’s pretty fun just to know what the fastest thing we ever built is, and the upper limit on the top speed of what humans can build it. At least for now.

 

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Sean Ellery
Sean Ellery
8 months ago

I remember that before this thing was launched, you could sign up to have your name included on a USB drive that was being installed on this probe.

Both mine and my wife’s are on it, if they went ahead with that idea. :+)

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
8 months ago

Add 80s graphics:

-=| T U R B O |=-

If a crazy slow, 200mph Porsche can do it, so can a 400,000mph probe.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

“ As far as vehicles go, it weighs about the same as an old air-cooled VW Beetle, around 1600 pounds, and yet manages to go about 394,656 mph faster than one.”

-Paging Mr. Toecutter-

What is the drag coefficient of an air cooled VW Beetle in outer space?

Oh right… completely different rules of physics apply there.

With inertia, in the vacuum of outer space, given a little help from gravitational pull, planetary rotation and mathematically perfect calculations sure… you could eventually get an old air cooled VW Beetle up to 80 MPH.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

So… every time we “slingshot” a spacecraft off a celestial body it decreases the rotation of the celestial body by an infinitesimal amount?
That’s crazy!

Conspiracy theory: Elon Musk started Space X as a means to eventual time travel after watching the end of the 1978 Superman movie.

His evil genius plan might just work too, if the Earth wasn’t flat. What a dummy.

Last edited 8 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

You don’t know what you’re talking about. He would need an inordinate amount of plutonium, a Flux Capacitor and a stainless steel bodied vehicle to pull this off.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

Oh? Shut up.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

Naysayers get all naysayerly about it.

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
8 months ago

The biggest question is was Superman’s DNA on board to create Nuclear Man?

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
8 months ago

[Fourth time slingshotting around Venus] Oh my God can we just GO already!?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

-Bender Bending Rodríguez-

Last edited 8 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Mr. Frick
Mr. Frick
8 months ago

I could care less about what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say. He’s not a real scientist, just a commentator. His biggest contribution was kicking Pluto to the curb as a planet and generally ruining it for King Flippy Nips.

Last edited 8 months ago by Mr. Frick
Ravenswood
Ravenswood
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Frick

I mean, he does have a PhD in Astrophysics.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Frick

How much less, exactly?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
8 months ago

Whoa! Whoa! WHOA! Jason, are you seriously suggesting that a Beetle can go 80 MPH?!?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
8 months ago

Hmmmm, suspicious. There was a lot of drug use in the late 70’s. Also, a lot of disco balls. I’m sensing a connection…

Rafael
Rafael
4 months ago

Maybe 86 on re-entry if you slingshot it from Venus.

Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
8 months ago

But what’s the 0 to 100,000?

And these new unobtrusive autoplay videos are very Jalopnikish.

alwaysbroke
alwaysbroke
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred Fedurch

According to wikipedia, it was lanched in august of 2018, or 62 months ago, but I don’t think you can divide 62 by 4 to get the accleration to 100,000 (in months). I would need to look it up, but I’m guessing someone will chime in with the answer before I can

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred Fedurch

Give me a minute.
(Carry the 9.. divide by perplexity)
(Nope, that can’t be right)
Google? (That can’t be right either)
About 14 years?

R Rr
R Rr
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred Fedurch

While we’re on the subject, why does this tab eat 630MB of memory?? I haven’t seen an Autopian page under 300MB, and pretty much any other webpage is below 100MB (most are below 50).

As an example I have 3 tabs open of the old lighting site and they are 30, 34 and 41MB.

Last edited 8 months ago by R Rr
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

It may not have stripes, but if it’s flying through sun’s corona there will be bitchin’ flames.

Sean Ellery
Sean Ellery
8 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

They went at night so the flames would be reduced to a minimum…

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
8 months ago

Everyone knows that speed holes can make something faster than stripes. Much easier to modify also as they just require a pick axe.

EVDesigner
EVDesigner
8 months ago

Quick! Someone send an Altima into space. It’ll break this record in no time

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago

There was an episode of QI where the question was raised about when to leave earth to go [somewhere else in space]: the general answer is if it’s going to take more than 50 years to get where you’re going, you might as well wait because technology will improve. If you leave now with current technology, someone who invents better tech 10/20/whatever years later may be able to go much faster and pass you despite having left much later.

Here’s the clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_diXnFsb88
I think you’ll find it quite interesting. 🙂

Outofstep
Outofstep
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I love QI! No more productivity today. QI clips until it’s time to leave.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I was thinking last night what may be the consequences of developing a higg’s boson eliminator, and would it allow faster than C travel. Kept me up awhile.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago

Not even close! Buckle up Jason,You can’t feel it, but we’re rocketing through space at 1.3 million mph!

https://www.businessinsider.com/earth-screaming-through-space-nasa-animated-video-2019-10

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

And the earth was made by humans, was it?

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Every terrestrial vehicle in existence is traveling through space at 1.3 million mph. All is relative to one’s point of perspective.

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Yes, frame of reference.

But what we’re discussing is “The Fastest Human-Made Object”, with the added [strongly implied] criterion that the object is flying solo, and nothing made by humans is responsible for any of earth’s 1.3M mph, so… no. 🙂

IOW the V-ger probes and this probe are going the velocities they’re going only because of what humans did to launch them. Simply sitting on a fast-moving planet doesn’t count, and because we [humans] are not aware of traveling at 1.3M mph I daresay it is not included in our frame of reference. 😉

Last edited 8 months ago by A. Barth
Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

You’re aware of it now.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

whooooosh, just let him have his fun. I enjoyed it.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
8 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Frame of reference is indeed important. However, if you use the same frame of reference (relative to the sun) then everything on Earth is traveling at 66,600 mph. So the probe is still faster. A lot faster.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I reject your Suncentric bias!

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
8 months ago

I’m slightly miffed that my favorite old record holder wasn’t mentioned – a manhole cover in 1957 at about 150,000mph.

Mike McDonald
Mike McDonald
8 months ago
Reply to  Redfoxiii

However, as the manhole cover was accelerating and traveling at that speed, so was the cloud of plasma that was accelerating it, which means that manhole cover was not only disappearing as it was being melted and evaporated by that plasma, but also by the friction with the atmosphere. I doubt there was anything manhole-ish left by the time it reached the upper atmosphere.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike McDonald

I like to think of it as powered by hubris.

T-wrecks
T-wrecks
8 months ago

But how fast does it do 0 – 60!?

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
8 months ago
Reply to  T-wrecks

Hard to say. Assuming that 400,000 mph was measured relative to the Sun, it’s never done 0. Or 60.

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