The Fastest Man-Made Object: TOP 10 Speed Champs On Earth And In Space

13th May 2024
The Fastest Man-Made Object: TOP 10 Speed Champs On Earth And In Space

In the modern world, where speed plays a key role in everything, from Internet connections to spacecraft, humanity doesn’t give up trying to speed up and create something even faster and more powerful. What is the fastest man-made object in 2024? There are many applicants for this title, and the competition is constantly high. In this article, we’ll tell you how people pushed the speed limits over the years and introduce the fastest vehicles ever made by man’s (or woman’s) hand. 

What Is The Fastest Thing Ever?

What is the fastest thing in universe
Image credit:

The answer to the question, what’s the fastest thing in the world, is probably known to everyone — it is sunlight. The speed at which the stream of photons reaches the Earth is 299,792,458 m/s or 1.08 billion km/h. The speed of light is mentioned whenever someone wants to emphasise the speed or efficiency of any action. Spaceships in science fiction films fly at the speed of light. However, in reality, we are still technologically far from achieving it. Although… perhaps, governments are hiding something from us?

What Is The Fastest Speed Achieved By Humans?

The average speed of a walking person is 5 km per hour. When running, the figure increases to 10-15 km/h, and professional runners reach speeds of up to 20 km/h.

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt achieved the fastest human speed at the 2009 World Championships. He ran the 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds at 44.72 km/h, earning himself the Lightning nickname. Damn, this is really very fast for a person on his own two feet.

However, one should understand that human capabilities are limited, and even the fastest runner will not be able to maintain high speed for a long time. The strength will run out. People quickly realised that in order to move faster and cover longer distances, they needed aid. And so people switched to horses.

Go Faster On Horseback 

These noble animals were domesticated back in the 4th century BC, and the first horse-drawn carts appeared 4 thousand years ago. A horse with a rider can accelerate up to 50-60 km and be harnessed to a carriage — up to 30 km. But a horse cannot gallop forever. A trained horse can walk at variable gaits for about 20 hours without a break at a speed of 10-20 km/h. At a maximum speed of 50-60 km/h, the animal can gallop for no more than 1–2 minutes. If we take an average figure, then horses can run without stopping for about 2-3 hours, covering a distance of about 20–25 miles.

mechanical horse
We still use horsepower as a measurement of vehicle power. Image credit:

The development of technological progress in the 19th and 20th centuries gradually freed us from the need to exploit animals for transport. We switched to cars and started using horses mainly for entertainment purposes: racing, promenades, and historical films. However, we kept something from the horses. We measure the machine motor power in horsepower.

What Is The Fastest Man-made Object On Earth?

In the early 19th century, people came up with steam engines and put them on rails, inventing the first trains. They were very slow and moved a little faster than a pedestrian. In 1895, the first gasoline-powered car saw the light of day. It was a Benz Patent-Motorwagen with a top speed of 10 miles. Eight years later, in 1903, the legendary Wright brothers introduced the first aeroplane in history, which developed an unprecedented speed of 30 miles per hour. Modern vehicles reach speeds that the Wright brothers could not even dream of. Let’s find out what’s the fastest man-made object on the ground and in the air.

What Is The Fastest Car?

fastest car in the world
Fastest car in the world Koenigsegg Jesko Absolute. Image

Fastest car in the world Koenigsegg Jesko Absolute. Image

The fastest human-made object in the automotive industry today is Koenigsegg Jesko Absolute. This Swedish hypercar is capable of accelerating up to 330 mph.

The car has a 5-litre V8 engine with two turbochargers producing 1,600 horsepower using E85 biofuel, lightweight construction, and advanced aerodynamic characteristics.

The Jesko Absolut is the pinnacle of Koenigsegg engineering and is a combination of luxurious design, cutting-edge technology, and unparalleled performance. And while few would dare drive at 300mph, all 125 Jesko Absoluts built to date have been sold.

What Is The Fastest Train?

fastest train
Fastest train in the world SCMaglev. Image

The Japanese SCMaglev train is still being developed and tested by the Central Japan Railway (JR Central), but it is expected to serve the Chūō Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka (310 miles), reducing travel time between these cities to 1 hour 7 minutes.

During testing, SCMaglev set a new record — 603 km/h and became the world’s fastest man-made object moving on the ground. But during normal operation, it will travel at speeds of up to 500 km/h.

To achieve such figures, the L0 Maglev has an unusual design. The nose of the train is extended by 15 meters for better aerodynamics and reduced noise in the tunnels. The intermediate cars are 24.3 meters long and can accommodate 68 passengers, while the tail cars are 28 meters long and can accommodate 24 passengers. The total length of the train is 300 m. It is planned that the train will start transporting passengers in 2027.

And yet, neither cars nor trains can compete with airplanes. To reach much higher speeds, you need more energy and less air resistance. It turned out that it is much easier to implement these principles in aircraft.

What Is The Fastest Aircraft?

Fastest aircraft in the world NASA X-43
The fastest aircraft in the world NASA X-43. Image

This is the X-43A unmanned hypersonic aircraft, created by NASA in 2001 to test air-breathing jet engines at high speeds. The X-43A reached a speed of Mach 9.6 (11,760 km/h or 7,310 mph). By comparison, the fastest passenger plane, Concorde, had a top speed of 1,350 mph.

The first X-43A and its modified Pegasus launch vehicle were lifted into the air by an NB-52B carrier aircraft from the Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, on June 2, 2001. However, the attempt was unsuccessful, and the launch vehicle went out of control. The second and third attempts resulted in highly successful record flights. Mach 6.8 was achieved in March 2004, and Mach 9.6 in November 2004.

Despite its success, the X-43 program was discontinued in 2004 and was replaced by the US Air Force’s X-51 hypersonic cruise missile program.

What Is The Fastest Man-made Object In Space?

You may be surprised, but the fastest man-made object in space is not the legendary Saturn V rocket that launched the astronauts to the Moon or even the state-of-the-art SpaceX starship to go to Mars. The fastest man-made object to go into space is … a probe. Research probes are designed to explore the sun and distant planets, so they must reach record speeds to cover long distances faster. On the other hand, the probes’ advantages are their disadvantages. They are too small and remotely controlled, which creates certain limitations and difficulties for manoeuvres. So it’s not just probes that we use in space. Below is a list of the fastest man-made spacecraft ever (in ascending order).

Space Shuttles (17 500 mph)

Space Shuttle launch
Space Shuttle launch. Image Credit:

The space shuttles Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavor, and Columbia reached speeds of about 28,000 km/h or 17,500 mph. This is the so-called escape velocity 1, which is necessary for space objects to remain in low-Earth orbit. To enable the heavy shuttle to achieve such speed, it was equipped with solid rocket side boosters and huge fuel tanks for the main engines, holding approximately 500 thousand gallons or 1,892,705 litres of oxygen and hydrogen.

Apollo 10 (25 000 mph)

Apollo 10
Apollo 10. Image Credit:

The Apollo 10 mission was a major milestone in the Apollo program and served as a dress rehearsal for the first manned lunar landing. Launched on May 18, 1969, this mission included all aspects of a true lunar landing except the landing itself. The crew consisted of Commander Thomas Stafford, Command Module Pilot John Young, and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan.

The ship managed to reach an escape speed 2 — 39,897 km/h or 24,791 mph. It is this speed that is necessary for the device to overcome Earth’s gravity and enter a translunar trajectory. The Apollo 10 crew successfully reached the Moon’s orbit and achieved all mission objectives. The ship itself is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest manned spacecraft. 

Voyager (38 600 mph)

Voyager Space probe. Credit: NASA

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions were launched by the United States in 1977 to explore the outer group planets. The probes were launched 16 days apart along routes of different lengths and at different speeds. Voyager 1’s speed was 61,136 km/h or 38,610 mph, and Voyager 2’s was 56,000 km/h or 34,800 mph.

The missions became famous as devices that still perform their tasks and send data to Earth. In addition, Voyager 1 is the most distant man-made object from Earth and has the fastest spacecraft speed of all those leaving the solar system. Voyager 2 is famous for being the first to reach Uranus and Neptune.

Helios (157 000 mph)

Helios solar probe
Helios solar probe. Credit: pinterest

An unprecedented speed of 157,078 mph was shown by the Helios satellites launched in 1974 and 1976 by the United States and Germany to study the Sun. They reached the Sun in just two years and were able to fly closer to it than any other spacecraft before. This made it possible to collect unique data on solar activity. The Helios mission was successful — the satellites transmitted data to Earth until 1985.

Juno (165 000 mph)

Juno probe
Juno Spacecraft. Image credit:

AIS Juno, launched by NASA in 2011, is famous for being the first spacecraft to enter Jupiter orbit. In terms of speed, it significantly surpassed all previous spacecraft. During its closest approach to Jupiter, Juno reached a limit of 265,000 km/h or 165,000 mph. The high speed and stable operation of the probe was facilitated by three powerful solar panels.

The Fastest Man-made Object Ever: Parker Solar Probe (395 000 mph)

fastest man-made object - Parker solar probe
The Parker Solar Probe imagined racing around the Sun. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion / NASA / GSFC

Parker Solar Probe crowns the fastest man-made object rank. The device was created by NASA in 2018 to collect data about the Sun, in particular, to study the nature of the solar wind in detail. During the probe’s last approach to the Sun in 2023, the Parker solar probe top speed was recorded at 395,000 mph. The Parker broke its own record, set in 2021, by 30 miles. This achievement was made possible by a combination of powerful engines and a gravity manoeuvre near Venus.

No one has yet exceeded the speed mark of 395,000 mph. To put it into perspective, if you could travel at such speed, it would only take you one minute to get from New York to Tokyo.

Parker continues to fly around the Sun, and by 2025, it is expected to approach the star at a distance of only 3.8 million km. This will be a new milestone in the history of space exploration and in the pursuit of speed.

What Was The Manhole Cover Nuke Experiment?

The “nuclear hatch cover” experiment refers to a popular anecdote from a series of nuclear tests known as “Operation Plumbbob,” conducted in the United States in 1957. During one of these tests, called Pascal B, a heavy steel cover weighing several hundred kg and 10 cm thick was allegedly torn from the top of an underground test shaft by an explosion below. The story goes that the lid was thrown at a speed of 201,168 km/h or 125,000 mph. If it were a spacecraft, it would rank 4th in our list of the fastest man made objects.

Was A Manhole Cover The First Manmade Object In Space? 

The story of the flying hatch is more of a legend than a fact. Is there a manhole cover in space? Although the steel cap was indeed sent into the sky, there is no factual evidence that it reached space. Using cameras pointed at the test site, scientists were able to verify that the cover flew away and could calculate its flight speed. The speed of the cover turned out to be sufficient to suggest the possibility of its separation from Earth’s gravity and escape into outer space. And if this really happened, then the manhole cover became the first object to reach space, even before the launch of the first artificial Sputnik.

The Endless Thirst For Speed

The thirst for research is the main driving force of mankind, which not only does not run out but is gaining momentum. In just 100 years, we have moved from horse-drawn carts and clumsy cars to hyperjets and spaceships. Today, the fastest man-made object is the Parker solar probe with a speed of almost 400,000 mph, but tomorrow, it could be a ship travelling at the speed of light and making a hyperjump to the most secret corners of the Universe we could only dream of. Sounds like science fiction. But isn’t fiction something that always ends up becoming reality?

References And Additional Information:

  • Probe Blazes New Record For The Fastest Thing Ever Made by Humans
  • X-43A Hypersonic vehicle technology development
  • Did-a-manhole-cover-really-make-it-to-space-in-1957?
  • SCMaglev
  • Jesko Absolut
  • Apollo 10
  • Where is Voyager now
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