Speed Facts

The Space Shuttle speed goes from 0 mph to 17,500 mph in 8.5 minutes (this is when the external fuel tank separates from the Shuttle). Two minutes after launch the solid rocket boosters separate; at this time the speed is 3,438 mph and increasing rapidly. The speed of the gases exiting the Solid Rocket Booster motor is 6,000 miles per hour—three times the speed of a high-powered rifle. The Space Shuttle travels at a rate of about 17,500 miles per hour when orbiting the Earth. When reentry or blackout happens, the Shuttle is traveling at 16,700 mph. After reentry the Shuttle uses Earth's atmosphere to slow down. Landing speed ranges from 213 to 226 miles per hour (343 to 364 kilometres per hour). (source)

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Aristotle believed that a body falls at a speed in proportion to its weight (in other words, a ten-pound weight would fall ten times faster than a one-pound weight), and that the speed of a falling body is inversely proportional to the resistance of what it falls through (so that a body falling in a vacuum would fall at an infinite rate). These beliefs were not challenged until Galileo did so in the 17th century, even though it would have been trivial for anyone to drop two objects of different weights and notice that they fell at the same speed. (source)

A "light year" is a measure of distance, not time. It is defined as the distance light travels in one year. Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 kilometres each second, so in one year, it travels about 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres. (source)

An elephant can achieve a speed of twenty miles an hour, and sustain it for half a day. (source)

A geostationary satellite travels at an altitude of approximately 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above the Earth and at a speed of about 11,000 km/h (7,000 mph). (source)

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On February 20, 1962 astronaut John Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 "Friendship 7" spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the U.S. Launched from Kennedy Space Center, he completed a successful three-orbit mission around the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude (apogee) of approximately 162 statute miles and an orbital velocity of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Glenn's "Friendship 7" spacecraft landed approximately 800 miles southeast of Kennedy Space Center. Mission duration from launch to impact was 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. (source)

Christopher Columbus' first transatlantic voyage travelled at a rate of around 2.8 miles per hour.

The only bird that can fly backwards is the hummingbird, which achieves this feat by beating its wings up and down at a very fast speed; some species reach 80 beats per second. (source)

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SR-71, also known as the "Blackbird," is the research aircraft used by NASA as a test bed for high-speed, high-altitude aeronautical research. It was secretly designed in the 1950s at Lockheed's Advanced Development Company, commonly known as "Skunk Works." (source)

When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears a sonic boom. (source)

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Chicago, the "Windy City", is nowhere near the windiest in the United States; its average wind speed of 10.4 miles per hour ranks it sixteenth in the list of windiest U.S. cities, with Great Falls, Montana the windiest at 13.4 miles per hour. (source)

The X-15 aircraft made a total of 199 flights over a period of nearly 10 years from 1959 to 1968. It set unofficial world speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 feet. Information gained from the highly successful program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft and the Space Shuttle program. (source)

Saturn is so far away it will take almost an hour and a half for radio signals from Earth to reach the Cassini spacecraft—between 68 and 84 minutes, depending on the position of Earth and Saturn. That's a long time, especially if you consider that radio signals travel at the speed of light! (source)

Bob Hawke is known for being the Prime Minister of Australia between 1983 and 1991. However, his first claim to fame was holding the Guinness World Record for beer drinking between 1955 and 1957, for drinking 2½ pints of beer in 11 seconds. (source)

It is quite windy on Saturn. Winds around the planet's equator can reach 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) per hour. In comparison, the fastest winds on Earth reach only about 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) per hour. (source)

The Earth is rotating on its axis at a rate of 460 metres per second at the equator, and is orbiting the sun at a rate of about 30 kilometres per second. The sun is orbiting the centre of the Milky Way at a rate of about 220 kilometres per second. The Milky Way is moving at a speed of about 1000 kilometres per second towards a region of space 150 million light years away called the Great Attractor. (source)

To the nearest ten-thousandth of a mile, light travels at 186,282.3959 miles per second. At that rate, it takes slightly more than eight minutes to get to Earth from the sun. However, it takes light hundreds of years to travel from the sun's centre to its surface. The light must take a very indirect path to the surface due to the large number of collisions with particles within the sun.

View more facts about: Physics and Physicists | Solar System

In August 1820, an avalanche on Mont Blanc swept a nine-man team of mountaineers into a glacial crevasse on the mountainside. Local people who knew the rate at which the glacier was moving calculated that in 40 years the bodies would appear at the foot of the mountain in the Chamonix valley, some 8 kilometres from where they had died. The bodies appeared in 1861, only a year later than predicted, and still looked "in the bloom of youth", according to some reports.

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There is sound in space. Sound is a pressure wave, and as long as there is some kind of gaseous medium, there is the possibility of forming pressure waves in it. In space, the interplanetary medium is a very dilute gas at a density of about 10 atoms per cubic centimeter, and the speed of sound in this medium is about 300 kilometers per second. Typical disturbances due to solar storms and "magneto-sonic turbulence" at the Earth's magnetopause have scales of hundreds of kilometers, so the acoustic wavelengths are enormous. Human ears would never hear them, but we can technologically detect these pressure changes and play them back for our ears to hear by electronically compressing them. (source)

A steam coach that ran in Britain before the Road Locomotive Act was passed.

From 1836 to 1895, the Road Locomotive Act (also known as the Red Flag Act) in England required that any self-propelled vehicle be preceded by a man carrying a red flag by day and a red lantern by night. It also placed high taxes on steam-powered vehicles. This regulation, by essentially limiting the speed of such vehicles to that of a person and otherwise making them impractical, inhibited the development of automobiles for 60 years in Great Britain. While previously Great Britain had been in the forefront of the development of automobiles and several steam coaches had been built, over the next six decades the French, Germans, and Americans would take the lead. (source)

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