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## Flying a Cessna On Other Worlds: xkcd Gets Noticed By a Physics Professor148

djl4570 writes "xkcd's 'What If' series consists of humorous takes on highly implausible but oddly interesting hypothetical physics questions, like how to cook a steak with heat from atmospheric re-entry. The most recent entry dealt with flying a Cessna on other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars: 'The tricky thing is that with so little atmosphere, to get any lift, you have to go fast. You need to approach Mach 1 just to get off the ground, and once you get moving, you have so much inertia that it’s hard to change course—if you turn, your plane rotates, but keeps moving in the original direction.' Venus: 'Unfortunately, X-Plane is not capable of simulating the hellish environment near the surface of Venus. But physics calculations give us an idea of what flight there would be like. The upshot is: Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane.' There are also a bunch of illustrations for flightpaths on various moons (crashpaths might be more apt), which drew the attention of physics professor Rhett Allain, who explained the math in further detail and provided more accurate paths."
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## Flying a Cessna On Other Worlds: xkcd Gets Noticed By a Physics Professor

• #### Picking nits (Score:4, Interesting)

on Saturday February 02, 2013 @09:25PM (#42774821)

If that professor wants to pick nits with xkcd, the path an object follows while falling in a vacuum isn't a parabola. Its an ellipse. In most cases, the ellipse intersects the surface of the body being orbited in what is typically referred to as a crash. But if one is considering dropping the object (with some forward velocity) above a small enough body, the distinction becomes important.

• #### I got linked! (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:35PM (#42775401) Homepage

Wow-- I just noticed this-- I got linked!
(at the pdf report linked at the words "...The acid's no fun, but it turns out the area right above the clouds is a great environment for an airplane" in the Venus section)
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030003716_2002108457.pdf [nasa.gov]

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