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Meet the fastest human-made object ever, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

Did you ever imagine we would see a spacecraft beat the Parker Solar Probe’s 2021 peak speed of 364,660 miles per hour? Well, the Parker Solar Probe has done it again, reaching 400,000 miles per hour and becoming the fastest human-made object the world has ever seen.

Record-setting spaceship

NASA has announced that its Parker Solar Probe traveled at a speed of 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) around the sun.

This record-breaking achievement was recorded during the probe’s 17th orbit around the sun, which was completed on September 27, 2023.

Parker Solar Probe’s mission

The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 to observe the sun. Since then, it has been collecting data to help understand the origin and evolution of solar wind. 

The mission is supported by a diverse team of scientists, engineers, and support staff at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

But the probe has done far more than simply touching the Sun and collecting measurements and images. It has become the fastest human-made object ever.

A smooth run

Despite traveling at such unbelievable speeds, the spacecraft has reported no problems whatsoever.

A NASA statement reads: “The spacecraft entered the encounter in good health, with all systems operating normally.” 

The team also reports that the Parker Solar Probe has been in touch with the mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, “sending a stream of telemetry (status data).”

Another record broken

In addition to darting through the vastness of space at the fastest speed ever, the record-setting spacecraft also broke its own distance record in its last swing.

The Parker Solar Probe skimmed just 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) from the solar surface. However, the probe will get even closer. Its closest approach is expected to be about 3.9 million miles away from the sun.

More ahead for the Parker Solar Probe

The Parker’s mission includes completing 24 orbits around the sun. With seven more orbits to go, we still have a few more opportunities to gather valuable data about our central star.

By 2025, when it will complete its final orbit, the Parker will race at 430,000 miles per hour or 690,000 kilometers per hour. This is mind-blowing, as it is approximately 0.064% of the speed of light.

Significance of the mission

Living in the sun’s atmosphere means we must understand how this massive central star affects our planet. The Parker Solar Probe mission is expected to provide valuable data to help us answer crucial questions about the sun.

  • Why is the corona significantly higher than the photosphere?
  • What is the mechanism behind the acceleration of the solar wind?
  • What powers high-energy solar particles?

The Parker has provided answers to some of these questions so far, but there is definitely more to come from the upcoming orbits.

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