Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Chevrolet In Orbit


I thought of this recently.  The moon has no atmosphere, which means that there is no resistance to objects passing anywhere near the moon’s surface.  So you could take a Chevrolet Tahoe and put it into orbit around the moon at a few thousand miles per hour, and at say, 500 feet above the surface, without it's orbit degrading.

What a sight that would be. You’re standing on the moon on a cool night, just looking up at the twinkling stars with maybe a gently setting Earth, when a 'shooting car' crosses your line of vision from one horizon to the other as it does every few hours.

Addendum 3/2/11:  If you were standing on one spot on the moon, and the SUV were orbiting in a perfect East/West path 500 feet above you, the Chevy Tahoe would float by at about 1 mile per second and would pass overhead about once every two hours.  If it were in any other orbit, it would appear once every two weeks.  Thanks for USC Physics Dept Alums, Siddhartha Santra and Christopher M. Gould for helping me figure that out; I wouldn't have known where to even start.