Fastest-Ever Spacecraft to Arrive at Jupiter Tonight
NASA’s Juno probe will attempt to slip into orbit around Jupiter tonight (July 4), shortly after becoming the fastest object ever made by human hands.
As Juno nears Jupiter tonight, the giant planet’s powerful gravity will accelerate the spacecraft to an estimated top speed of about 165,000 mph (265,000 km/h) relative to Earth, mission team members said.
“I don’t think we’ve had any human[-made] object that’s moved that fast, that’s left the Earth,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said during a news conference last week. [Juno’s Plunge Into Jupiter Orbit Fraught With Danger (Video)]
The all-time speed record is currently held by NASA’s Helios 1 and Helios 2 spacecraft, which launched in the mid-1970s to study the sun. Both probes reached top speeds of about 157,000 mph (253,000 km/h) at their points of closest approach to Earth’s star.