Fastest spacecraft ever
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is officially the fastest thing ever made by humans, reaching a top speed of 430,000 miles per hour as it makes its 7-year mission in the sun’s outer corona. The probe, which launched in August, will orbit our star, getting closer than any spacecraft ever has before. Despite encountering temperatures north of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, most of the probe’s four sensitive instrument suites will remain a cool 85 degrees. This is thanks to an eight-foot-wide, 160-pound heat shield made of carbon foam 4.5 inches thick and coated with a layer of superheated carbon. The foam is so light that, here on Earth, 97 percent of the mass was occupied by air—that doesn’t leave much solid matter for the Sun to heat, keeping the craft cool.