Fastest man-made objects (2016 update)

How fast are we? How fast can we send stuff around the Earth and across the universe? What’s the humanity’s speed record? You will find out soon.

Reference Point: Bugatti Veyron Supersport

To put things into perspective, we are going to use the famous super sport car (top speed 408.84 kph) for you to compare it with the following objects. You are about to see how such an impressive car is actually pretty slow compared to the fastest moving objects man has made.

1. Fastest land vehicle – ThrustSSC

Speed: 1,228 kph ~ 3x the top speed of Bugatti Veyron Supersport

The Thrust is a British jet-propelled car which claimed the world speed record for a land vehicle in 1997 and nobody has taken its place yet. SSC stands for supersonic, which means that it travelled faster than sound. Its enormous speed requires it to burn through 18 litres (4.8 gallons) of fuel per second, which is about 5 times the consumption of a Boeing 747 airplane.

2. Average sniper round

Speed: 3,600 kph ~ 8,8x the top speed of Bugatti Veyron

Now imagine this going through your body. Ouch.

3. ISS

Speed: 27,576 kph ~ 67.5 Bugattis

ISS

The International space station, humanity’s amazing achievement, is flying above our heads at the mentioned speed every day. Because of that, the astronauts on board see the sunrise and sunset 15 times a day. It will keep orbiting and letting astronauts do amazing science experiments until around 2024 when its funding will probably be cancelled.

4. Apollo 10

Speed: 39,897 kph ~ 98 Bugattis

One could call it the “dress rehearsal” of the first Moon landing as it allowed the Apollo 11’s success. The speed of this spacecraft is not so high compared to Juno or Helios, but it is different from them in one thing – it was manned. Thus, it set the speed record for a manned vehicle in 1969 with Thomas P. Strattford’s crew on board.

Apollo_10_Lunar_Module

 5. Juno

Speed: 144,000 kph ~ 352 Bugattis

Juno_Transparent

Juno, Jupiter’s wife and also the third fastest man-made object (relative to Earth), was launched in 2011 and has recently entered his orbit. Its peak velocity is mentioned above, but that is just the speed relative to the Earth (geocentric). Astronomers also use the velocity relative to the Sun, which was 213,480 kph. Following Gallileo, it is the second probe sent to Jupiter; it is set to gather data for 6 years and then fall down to the gas giant and burn. Fun fact: It released LEGO minifigures of Galileo Galilei, Jupiter and Juno into the orbit.

6. Helios A and B

Speed: 356,040 kph (Helios B) ~ 618 Bugattis

Helios_spacecraft

These two probes (launched to study the Sun’s behavior), also known as Helios I and II are the fastest spacecrafts we have built. Helios II set the record for the fastest man-made object with the speed of 252,792 kph relative to the Sun, which is also 0.000234 of the speed of light. At that time it was travelling almost directly away from the Earth, so its speed relative to it was an amazing 356,040 kph. However, it reached this peak velocity when it had already been inactive for 10 years. Some could say it doesn’t count, but we are talking about man-made objects here, so we think it does.

Do these also count as man-made objects?

What is an object? By one definition it is a touchable or visible thing, but another one says that it is anything that can be apprehended intellectualy, so can we count protons and electrons as objects or not? Here are the three fastest controversial “objects”:

  • Protons in the Large hadron collider 
    • 0,999 C (=0,999 Speed of light) ~ 2.6 million Bugattis
  • A photon from a lightbulb
    • 1C, You can actually make these at home.
  • Arecibo message
    • 1C – Concentrated radio waves containing a message aimed at the global star cluster M13. It was sent in on 16 November 1974 and maybe some day we shall get an answer.

Compare the speed of the fastest man-made objects

How long would it take to go around the entire equator?

  • 11 months – By foot (considering there was a huge bridge) without stopping
  • 4.08 days – In a Bugatti at top speed
  • 11 hours – With the velocity of a sniper shot
  • 1.43 hours – At the speed of the ISS
  • 17 minutes – If you were as fast as Juno
  • 0.14 seconds – Travelling at the speed of light

Now let’s try comparing our fastest spacecrafts. How fast would they move on a cosmic scale?

  • Helios B, the fastest spacecraft we have built so far:
    • the edge of our solar system – 2 years
    • our nearest star, Proxima Centauri – 18,132 years
    • the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way – 427,350,427 years
  • Solar Probe Plus (720,000 kph = 0.067% speed of light) scheduled for 2018:
    • the edge of our solar system – 0.7 years (256 days)
    • our nearest star, Proxima Centauri – 6,333 years
    • the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way – 149,253,731 years
  • The Breakthrough Starshot (215,850,569.76 kph = 20% speed of light) – A project by Stephen Hawking, Yuri Millner and others:
    • the edge of our solar system – 0.0024 years (21 hours)
    • our nearest star, Proxima Centauri – 21.2 years
    • the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way – 500,000 years

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I'm a futurist, optimist and science/technology blogger from Czechia, Central Europe. As Fry in Futurama, I traveled forward in time (me just 25 years though) and my new job assignment is: "Good News Delivery Boy". So I started The Milky Way Times, a blog full of futuristic, optimistic and inspirational news. Stay tuned!