spaceSpace and Physics

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Just Became The Fastest Human-Made Object Of All Time


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMay 3 2021, 13:13 UTC
Artist impression of Parker Solar Probe

Artist impression of Parker Solar Probe. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is providing important new insights into the inner working of the Sun and to achieve that it's breaking records left, right, and center. Last week it became the closest human-made object ever to the Sun and the fastest human-made object ever, breaking its own previous records. It was clocked zipping through the Sun's outer atmosphere at 532,000 kilometers (330,000 miles) per hour.

To give you a sense of this achievement, let's put it in another context: Something made by humans just swung past the Sun at about 0.05 percent of the speed of light.


The solar probe already held the record for the fastest human-made object at 393,044 km/h (244,255 mph), and the closest to the Sun at 18.6 million kilometers (11.6 million miles), recorded back in February 2020. Now, it's smashed those, coming in at 10.4 million kilometers (6.5 million miles) from our star. And it's set to go even further and faster. The probe will take another 4 years to reach its closest approach, using flybys of Venus as a slingshot to get closer to the Sun. 

The spacecraft will eventually enter an extremely close orbit around the Sun, getting as close as just 8.5 times the Sun’s radius from the solar surface. The next Venus flyby is on October 16, this year, and the next closest record-breaking encounter with the Sun will be on November 21.

At its final closest approach in 2025, it will reach a speed of 690,000 kilometers (430,000 miles) per hour, or 0.064 percent the speed of light.


Until then, it will continue to send back incredible images of its adventures through the Solar System.


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