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spaceSpace and Physics

GIF Shows Just How Fast New Horizons Is Travelling

author

Danielle Andrew

Editorial Intern

clockSep 6 2015, 23:34 UTC
2219 GIF Shows Just How Fast New Horizons Is Travelling
New Horizons at the Kennedy Space Center in 2005. NASA

After New Horizons' epic flyby of Pluto, many questioned why, when planning to visit a distant celestial body we don’t know very much about, it didn’t hang out a little bit longer to get a better understanding of this mysterious dwarf planet.

Well, this GIF created and tweeted by Google product developer Clay Bavor gives you some idea why.

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Compared to the measly 885 kph (550 mph) that a commercial airplane travels at, New Horizons is traveling at a mind-blowing 58,000 kph (36,000 mph). This incredible speed was necessary to get the craft to Pluto in a reasonable amount of time, which was still a staggering nine and a half years. If the team that created New Horizons had slowed it down enough to enter Pluto’s orbit, they would have had to reduce its speed by over 90%. This maneuver would have required 1,000 times the amount of fuel than could even be loaded onto the craft – making the mission impossible anyway due to the extra weight.


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