1
$\begingroup$

Which is the longest distance traveled by a space craft? Manned or unmanned? I believe it's Voyager, but I am not sure about the distance it traveled or is still traveling.

I believe the mission would be a one way mission obviously, but I may be wrong.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Distance travelled relative to what? We're all travelling tremendous distances relative to the Sun. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Sep 29 '16 at 13:19
5
$\begingroup$

The spacecraft farthest away from Earth is Voyager 1. But that's not necessarily the longest distance traveled. If you accept the distance traveled while in orbit, a spacecraft can rack up a lot of miles while staying close to Earth.

Let's try this for Helios I:
launched in 1974, so 42 years ago. 367.920 hours, 1.324 *109 seconds, at 45 km/s this is 59 *109 km traveled, much further than Voyager's 19 *109 km.

The Helios probes are in an eccentric probe. Assuming a speed of 70 km/s at perihelion and 30 km/s at aphelion (close to Earth's speed), a straight average is 45 km/s.
A better value can be calculated by finding its orbital period and the length of one orbit, I'm having some trouble figuring out how to find that length.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Speed record actually now belongs to Juno, which at the time of Jupiter intercept achieved 73 km/s. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Sep 29 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but that's not useful for this calculation: with its highly elliptical orbit, Juno will be traveling slower than that most of the time. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 29 '16 at 13:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Helios was also quite eccentric, so... By that measure, your time is off, it will spend far more time at a slower speed. The speed you listed was the highest achieved, at the point closest to the sun, the furthest point will be much slower. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Sep 29 '16 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ changed the calculation a bit, using an average speed instead of maximum. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 29 '16 at 16:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.