NASA made history in July when its New Horizons spacecraft swooped by Pluto, giving the world the first ever look at this previously unexplored world.
The probe demonstrated an incredible feat of human ingenuity and engineering. Not only was it tricked out with an impressive suite of scientific instruments, but to complete its 4.6-billion-mile-journey in less than 10 years, it needed to travel mind-bendingly fast.
As it neared Pluto, New Horizons sped along at more than 30,000 miles per hour.
This sounds extremely speedy, but it’s hard to imagine what 30,000 mph actually looks like.
Thankfully, Clay Bavor, vice president of product management at Google, decided to put this speed into perspective by showing what you would see as you looked out the window of the the New Horizons spacecraft as it travelled at 36,000 mph at 37,000 feet, compared to views from two other crafts we’re more familiar with: a Boeing 747 passenger jet and an SR-71 Blackbird.
The average Boeing 747 typically cruises at around 583 mph — about 60 times slower than New Horizons.
And an SR-71, which travels at Mach 3.2 — three times the speed of sound — at a swift top speed of about 2,200 mph, is still about 16 times slower than the space probe.
“To put 36,000 mph in perspective, at that speed, you’d be able to fly from San Francisco to New York in about five minutes,” Bavor says on his website. “Of course, you’d also be turned into a ball of searing hot plasma.”
During its super-speedy 24-hour fly by New Horizons was able to collect a ton of data — including mind-blowing close-up images of the dwarf planet — that will take more than a year to download.
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