You’ve already heard plenty about the Parker Solar Probe over the past year or so and with good reason. It’s NASA’s long-planned attempt to “Touch the Sun” and the probe will get far closer to our host star than any man-made object ever has. The mission will break ground in many different ways, but nobody seems to be paying attention to just how fast the plucky probe will actually be traveling.
NASA’s plans for the probe include multiple orbits of the sun, repeatedly slingshotting itself around the star and gathering vital science data each time it makes its approach. Its handlers will gradually bring the probe closer and closer to the sun over its six-year-plus mission, but by the time it begins its final orbits it’s going to be moving faster than anything mankind has ever built before.
When the probe begins its final orbits it will be moving at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, according to NASA. That’s…well, it’s very, very fast. It’s the fastest any man-made object will have ever traveled and the probe will likely hold that title for a long time.
As NASA explains, the probe’s first challenge will be to cancel out the speed at which the earth is moving in relation to the sun. It will have to push itself in the opposite direction of the Earth at approximately 53,000 miles per hours to achieve that and it will be forced to use another planet to help it achieve that goal.