Your regular commercial airliner, like a Boeing 747 is fast. A super-spy jet like the SR-71 Blackbird is much faster than that, traveling at over three times the speed of sound. So how does a deep-space probe like New Horizons, which recently flew past Pluto, compare? Thanks to this animation, you can see it’s very, very fast indeed.
The animation was created by Clay Bavor, who works at Google in his day job. As he notes in his caption on it:
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. Of course, you’d also be turned into a ball of searing hot plasma.
I guess we should be happy, then, that New Horizons wasn’t going at crazy speeds through our own atmosphere.
In case you can’t read the words on the video above because you’re illiterate (in which case HOW ARE YOU READING THESE WORDS), a 747 typically cruises somewhere around 550 miles per hour, the SR-71 was claimed to have hit 2,700 MPH, but New Horizons is zooming through space at a staggering 36,000 MPH.
In fact, part of the reason why New Horizons didn’t stop and orbit Pluto is because it’s just so damn fast. Part of the reason for that is because NASA wanted it to get to Pluto in a reasonable amount of time, but I suspect that most of the reason for that is because we’ve all grown up wanting to know how fast we could shoot something into the sky. And when you’re NASA, your idea of shooting something into the sky includes a gravity assist from Jupiter.