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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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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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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A satellite in a high enough orbit can remain operational for a very long time because in space there is practically no air resistance. This is a situation that never occurs in our everyday life. A car requires a constant consumption of fuel to keep running, but a satellite can remain in motion without consuming any fuel because there’s practically no force stopping it.
Flat-Earthers claim that satellites cannot stay up there for such a very long time because ‘we never refuel any satellites.’ They are wrong. In space, there is practically no drag, and satellites only need to consume fuel to adjust their speed periodically.
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Most combustion engines work with oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere as its oxidizing agent in the combustion process. But in the case of rockets, there’s no oxygen in space. It would have to bring the oxidizer in addition to its fuel or use monopropellant which doesn’t require an oxidizer.
Flat-Earthers claim rockets should not be able to work in space because there’s no oxygen in space. They are wrong. The lack of oxygen in space is merely an engineering problem which is not impossible to solve. Rockets are engineered to carry its oxidizer or utilize monopropellant which does not require an oxidizer.
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If we walk by pushing our feet against the ground, birds fly by flapping their wings against the air, and fish swim by pushing their fins against water; then how can possibly a rocket move in a vacuum?
Rockets are able to move in space by making use of the law of nature described in the Newton’s laws of motion, and the law of conservation of momentum.
Continue reading “How Rocket Engines Work in A Vacuum”