Space Tourism

It is possible to fly to space as a tourist as long as we are willing to pay a lot of money. There have been seven persons who went to space and paid the trip from their own pockets.

Flat-Earthers claim if the first human spaceflight was more than half a century ago, there should be space tourism by now. In reality, there were already several cases of space tourism, even if it is still beyond the reach of most people today.

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Weightlessness, Free Fall, and Microgravity

In orbit, objects are weightless because both the objects and the spacecraft have the same speed and direction, and both are affected by the same gravitational influence. We use the spacecraft as the frame of reference. Because the objects are not in motion relative to the spacecraft, they appear to float.

In Earth orbit, the objects are still affected by Earth’s gravity, but yet they float. Flat-Earthers use it to disprove spaceflight. In reality, the objects float because we are using the spacecraft as the frame of reference, which is also moving by the same amount and is affected by the same gravity as the objects themselves.

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Richard Garriott’s “Pocket of Gravity” Magic Trick

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Richard Garriott is a video-game developer and entrepreneur who is also an avid magician. In October 2008, he flew to the ISS onboard a Soyuz rocket as a private astronaut. During his time on the ISS, he performed several magic tricks.

One of his magic tricks involves a hammer that floats and a card that seems to fall as if it is pulled down by gravity. Flat-Earthers were unaware it was a mere magic trick and wrongly assume it demonstrates things are falling in the ISS, despite other objects in the scene that float.

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Missions to the Moon, Post-Apollo

After the Apollo moon landings, we continue launching missions to the moon, but with uncrewed spacecraft. The Apollo program was not entirely a scientific mission. It also served as a political mission due to the Cold War. We can research a lot of things about the moon without risking human lives by sending them to the moon.

Flat-Earthers claim that there have not been any missions to the moon after the Apollo missions, and they conclude that the Apollo missions were fabricated. In reality, we continue sending spacecraft to the moon to this day.

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2001 Mars Odyssey Launch Video

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Flat-Earthers often challenge us to provide a video of a rocket launch that was taken from the rocket itself, without interruption from launch to reaching space, as if it would convince them to accept that it is real and the Earth is a sphere.

The launch video of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission easily fulfills their demand. But whether they can manage to accept the reality that Earth is a sphere is entirely another matter.

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Mars One

Mars One was a questionable organization that received investments by claiming it would use it to land humans on Mars. It was not a credible company, and many consider it was a scam to take money from investors and participants.

Mars One had a lot of media attention, but it was dissolved without any achievement. Flat-Earthers use it to discredit space travel. In reality, the company was not credible in the first place, and practically nobody in the aerospace industry thought Mars One was serious in their objective.

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Airplanes Will Never Fly Into Space

An airplane relies on the lift from its wings, which depends on the airplane’s speed and the air density. As a result, a cruising airplane will fly at a constant altitude, following the curvature of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers claim if Earth is a sphere, an airplane has to dip its nose down periodically, or it would fly into space. In reality, an aircraft will follow Earth’s curvature and is unable to fly to space even if the pilot deliberately attempts to do that

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“Mouse” on a SpaceX Falcon9 Rocket Launch

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In the video of the CRS-19 mission of the SpaceX Falcon9 rocket, flat-Earthers noticed something is moving near the exhaust of the second stage rocket. Creatively, they interpreted it as a “mouse, ” and then use it to discredit spaceflight and the people involved in it.

In reality, it was merely crystallized waste from the rocket engine. To know this, we only need to see the part of the video after the one cherry-picked by flat-Earthers. The “mouse” slowly disappeared by evaporation.

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Curved Appearance of a Rocket Trajectory

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Rocket launches have a curved trajectory because their objective is not only to reach space but also to enter Earth orbit. To achieve it, a spacecraft needs to gain a sufficient horizontal speed, parallel to Earth’s surface.

Flat-Earthers claim the curved appearance of a rocket launch trajectory “proves” rockets never reach space. In reality, it is caused by the motion of the rocket parallel to Earth’s surface, perspective effect, and the curvature of the Earth.

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Rocket Staging

Rockets consist of several stages. Two or more smaller rockets are combined into a single rocket. They are ignited in order; when an earlier stage runs out of propellants, it is jettisoned to reduce the load for the rest of the rocket.

Flat-Earthers noticed videos of rockets being recovered from the ocean and use them as “evidence” rockets never went to space. In reality, these are the jettisoned earlier stages of the rockets. The latter stages do reach space.

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Geostationary Satellites

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If a satellite is placed in an orbit 35786 km above the equator, it will be in motion at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation. As a result, the satellite will appear practically motionless from an observer on Earth’s surface. Many communication satellites are in this orbit so that a satellite receiver does not need to track the satellite continuously.

Flat-Earthers often take the fact that satellites are in motion, and most satellite dishes have a fixed direction as ‘proof’ the receivers cannot be pointing to satellites. In reality, it is possible to place a satellite in a geostationary orbit to make it appear in a fixed position in the sky relative to an observer on Earth.

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In 2019, scientists discovered that Earth’s atmosphere consists of a hydrogen cloud called the geocorona that extends to the Moon and beyond. Its density is minuscule, practically vacuum, and does not affect space travel.

Flat-Earthers claim this is an “admission” as the Moon has always been “inside the dome” in their flat Earth model. In reality, the discovery does not change much about what we already know.

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Vacuum Implosion

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A vacuum implosion can occur if a sealed enclosure has less pressure inside it than outside it, and the structure is not designed to withstand the pressure difference.

Flat-Earthers use vacuum implosions to ‘disprove’ space travel in the vacuum of space. In reality, 1. it is possible to engineer structures that can withstand such a pressure difference; and 2. in space, the inside is pressurized while the outside is a vacuum, which simplifies the engineering considerably.

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Pictures of Earth’s Surface from the UAE Astronaut Hazza Al-Mansouri

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The United Arab Emirates astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, took pictures of Earth’s features like the Nile and the Persian Gulf during his visit to the ISS. Flat-Earthers claim the pictures are fake because the various objects appear very large compared to the size of the Earth in the picture. The reason is that they do not understand that the ISS is only about 400 km above Earth’s surface, and only a very small amount of the Earth’s surface is visible from the ISS

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View of the Earth from the ISS

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The International Space Station (ISS) is only about 400 km above the Earth’s surface, only 6% farther from the center of the Earth than the Earth’s surface. Therefore, only a very small part of Earth’s surface is visible from the ISS at any time.

Flat-Earthers like to examine photos of the Earth from the ISS and compare them to those taken from a much farther location. They would take any difference as an inconsistency. In reality, the ISS can only observe a very small part of the Earth, unlike spacecraft much farther away.

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Earth Globe

An Earth globe is a spherical model of Earth with similar purposes to maps, but unlike maps, do not distort the surface that they portray except to scale it down. The Greeks from the 3rd century BC knew Earth is a sphere, and the earliest globe appeared from that period.

Flat-Earthers take the appearance of a globe before NASA existed as a sign of misconduct, like Universal Studios logo from the 20s. They incorrectly claim that it should not be possible to know Earth is a sphere before the first spaceflight. In reality, we knew spherical Earth since 3rd century BC and globes were already commonplace far before the first spaceflight. In fact, the success of spaceflight depends on our understanding of the spherical shape of the Earth.

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Buzz Aldrin’s Interview & the Quote-Mining by Flat Earthers

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In September 2015, Buzz Aldrin gave an interview at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Flat-Earthers misrepresented and quoted it out of context as if Buzz was admitting that the Apollo Moon landings never happened.

The original interview was 17 minutes long, and there were other occasions Buzz clearly said the Moon landings happened, without any possibility of misinterpretation.

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James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts

In 1958, James Van Allen discovered the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts. Conspiracy theorists, including flat-Earthers, use it to “prove” the Apollo Moon landings were faked and never happened. To dispel the hoax, James Van Allen himself wrote letters clarifying the false allegation.

“The recent Fox TV show, which I saw, is an ingenious & entertaining assemblage of nonsense. The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is only one example of such nonsense.”

Both the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the statement that the radiation belts do not prevent space travel came from James Van Allen. Conspiracy theorists cannot merely quote one when it appears to support their belief and conveniently reject the other if it is against them. Continue reading “James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts”

“Star Trek Style” Impenetrable Barrier

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In 2014, scientists discovered an impenetrable barrier in the Van Allen radiation belts. It prevents dangerous ultrarelativistic electrons from getting too close to the Earth.

Some news outlets dubbed it “Star Trek style invisible shield.” Flat-Earthers were too excited reading the headlines and unable to understand the rest of the news. They used it to “prove” the mythical dome above Earth and that spaceflight is impossible. They are wrong. The barrier prevents dangerous ultrarelativistic electrons from reaching Earth. It does not stop us from going to space.

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The ‘Destroyed Technology’ to go to the Moon

In an interview, Donald Pettit —a NASA astronaut— mentioned that he’d go the moon, but they no longer have the technology to do that. All the technology from the Apollo mission has been destroyed, and it is a painful process to build it back again.

Flat-Earthers interpreted the statement rather too freely and took that as “proof” we never had the technology in the first place. In reality, the word “technology” is polyseme. It has two different related meanings. Flat-Earthers misinterpreted Don’s statement as one meaning, while Don’s intention was another.

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