Humans feel the need for speed — without a doubt. From the first time we sit behind the wheel to choosing which roller coasters we prioritize at Magic Mountain, speed is always a primary factor.
But where most of us have to stop our fiending for a speed rush when the “Escape from Krypton” ride ends, others get to go out and design objects and vehicles that go far faster than we can imagine.
Remember as you read this list, an M4 carbine fires a round at 2,025 miles per hour.
8. NASA X-43 – 7,000 mph
The X-43 A is the fastest aircraft ever made. Unmanned, it was designed to test air-breathing engine technology at speeds above Mach 5, though the aircraft could reach speeds up to Mach 10. NASA wanted to use the information collected from its 3 X-43s to design airframes with larger payloads and, eventually, reusable rockets.
7. Space Shuttles, 17,500 mph
In order for anything in low-earth orbit to stay in low-earth orbit, it has to be traveling at least 17,500 mph. The shuttles’ external tank carries more than 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, which are mixed and burned as fuel for the three main engines.
6. Apollo 10 Capsule – 24,791 mph
The Apollo 10 mission of May 1969 saw the fastest manned craft ever. Apollo 10 was the moon landing’s dry run, simulating all the events required for a lunar landing. The men on board were all Air Force, Marines, and Navy astronauts.
From here on out, the vehicles are unmanned.
5. Stardust – 28,856 mph
Anything designed to collect samples of a comet has to be designed for speed. Stardust was designed to catch up to a comet, collect a sample, and then return to that sample to Earth — which it did in 2006. The capsule achieved the fastest speed of any man-made object returning to Earth’s atmosphere — Mach 36.
4. Voyager 1 – 38,610 mph
Voyager also has the distinction of being the most traveled man-made object ever. Launched in 1977, it reached interstellar-goddamn-space in 2013. It covered more than 322 million miles a year.
2. An iron manhole cover – 125,000 mph
During a nuclear bomb test called Operation Plumbbob, Robert Brownlee was tasked with designing a test for limiting nuclear fallout from an underground explosion. A device was placed in a deep pit, capped with a four-inch, iron manhole.
Obviously, the cap popped right off during the explosion, but Brownlee wanted to test the velocity of the expulsed cap. The test was filmed using a camera that captured one image per millisecond and only one frame captured the iron cap.
Brownlee calculated its velocity at 125,000 mph — and that it likely reached space, but no one knows for sure. They never found it.
1. Helios Satellites – 157,078 mph
The first of two satellites designed to study the sun. Also designed in the 1970s, the two Helios satellites broke all spacecraft speed records and flew closer to the sun than even the planet Mercury. It only took the probes two years to get to the sun and they transmitted information about the heliosphere until 1985.
They don’t make ’em like they used to.