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The Parker Solar Probe is now the fastest thing mankind has ever built

Published Oct 31st, 2018 7:06PM EDT
parker solar probe speed
Image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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The Parker Solar Probe is having one heck of a week. It was only yesterday that NASA announced its do-it-all star-studying machine has gotten closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, and now the probe has broken another record.

According to Guinness World Records, the probe is now the fastest manmade object ever. It reached a speed of 155,959 miles per hour, relative to the position of the Sun. That might sound like an incredible feat, and I suppose it is, but it’s only just a hair faster than the previous world record set by the Helios 2 probe that hit a speed of 153,453 miles per hour back in 1976.

The probe is currently headed for the first of many passes of the Sun, each one slowly shrinking its orbit thanks to gravity assists from nearby Venus. As it gets closer and closer, the probe will continue to top its own top-speed records on a regular basis, and it’s expected to break the current record for both distance and speed on November 5th, coming closer to the Sun than ever and moving at a speed of around 213,200 miles per hour.

That’s a speed that totally blows the Helios 2 probe out of the water, but the Parker spacecraft is really just getting started. Each time it passes it will be gradually moving towards its ultimate expected top speed of (brace yourselves) 430,000 miles per hour. That date is a long way off, however, and it won’t reach that incredible milestone until sometime in 2024.

As the probe makes it ever-closer shaves of the Sun, it will study our star in ways never before possible. It will relay readings of the Sun’s atmosphere, and scientists hope it will help them understand all the special things that make the star tick. Expect lots of new discoveries from NASA’s new probe sooner rather than later.