You are on page 1of 5

NAME ______________________

DATE _________________

Lab 4 - Part 1

Artificial Gravity

(shamelessly stolen from 2001)

Purpose: Determine if the artificial gravity on the Mir space station in the movie Armageddon is depicted accurately. Background: In Armageddon two space shuttles travel to the Russian space station Mir and dock. Mir was a real Russian space station that orbited Earth for 15 years before being intentionally returned to Earth as a fiery ball over the Pacific Ocean on March 22, 2001. Supposedly just before the docking of the shuttles the Russian cosmonaut on board turns on artificial gravity by spinning the space station. Assume that Mir rotates around the x-axis as shown in the attached drawing. Helpful Physics Info: Uniform circular motion (UCM) is motion in a circle with constant speed. When a rigid object rotates, such as a vinyl record or a space station, every point on the object undergoes UCM and rotates with the same rotational speed, . The linear speed, s, of each point is constant, however it depends on the distance it lies from the center of rotation. Physicists measure rotational speed with the units radians/second. To convert a number measured in radians/second to the more familiar rotations per minute (rpm) you multiply by 60/2.

60 seconds 1 minute The tangential speed of an object in UCM is given by s = r 2 The acceleration of an object in UCM is given by a = s /r #RPM =
x x

radians second

1 rotation 2 radians

Analysis: 1) Use the circle shown at right to represent a cross section of the module rotating around its center. Draw a stick figure inside the circle showing how a six foot tall person (1 ft = 0.30 m) would stand inside the core module. The stick figure should be drawn approximately to scale. Indicate on the drawing the direction of the centripetal force on the persons feet. This force creates the sensation of artificial gravity. 2) Find the required tangential (linear) speed to produce 1g = 9.8 m/s2 of centripetal acceleration at the persons feet. This will create artificial gravity similar to the gravity on Earth.

4.15 m

3) Calculate the rotational speed that corresponds to this tangential speed. Express your answer in both radians/second and rpm.

4) For this rotational speed calculate the level of artificial gravity (centripetal acceleration) at the top of the persons head.

5) Using the equations given in the info section write an equation that lets you calculate the centripetal acceleration knowing only the rotational speed, , and the distance from the center, r. Use this equation and the attached diagram of Mir to explain where the artificial gravity will be strongest and what the acceleration would be there. About how much would a person in the space shuttle weigh if the weigh if they weigh 200 lbs. (200 lbs. x 4.45N/lb = 890N) on Earth?

6) Explain why creating artificial gravity this way cannot exactly reproduce our experience on Earth. How could a space station be designed so that the artificial gravity would most closely approximate gravity on Earth?

Conclusions: (a) In what ways did the makers of Armageddon get artificial gravity wrong? (b) Be creative and try to imagine some of the strange things that you could do if you were in Mir while it rotated as we have calculated. (c) If you suddenly woke in a windowless room you had never seen before, how could you determine if you were still on Earth or experiencing artificial gravity on a spinning space station? (a)



Russian Mir Space Station

proposed rotation

Mir Core


Space Shuttle

Part 2 Splitting the Asteroid

(shamelessly stolen from 2001)

Purpose: Determine if a Texas sized asteroid could be split with a nuclear bomb so that the two halves would pass harmlessly by Earth, one on each side, as depicted in the movie Armageddon. Background: There is an asteroid headed directly for Earth. The plan to save humanity depends on using a nuclear bomb to split the asteroid in two so that the two halves pass on either side of our planet. For success two things must happen. 1) The nuclear bomb must actually split the asteroid. We will assume that this occurs (not likely!) and that it actually requires none of the energy produced by the exploding bomb. 2) The separation velocity of the two halves must be large enough to separate them by the diameter of the Earth plus 800 miles during the time between the blast and reaching Earth. We will assume that 100% of the energy released by the explosion is converted to Kinetic Energy of the two halves. This of course means no heat, no light and no sound (a whole other story!). We will also neglect the gravitational attraction between the two halves as well as their attraction to the earth. As far as nuclear bombs go, the most powerful bomb ever produced was made in Russia and had a 100 megaton yield. The largest bomb (to our knowledge!) currently in the U.S. arsenal is a 9 megaton bomb. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 21 kilotons respectively. What is a megaton? It is a unit of energy equal to the energy produced if one million tons of TNT were detonated. In normal physics units 1 megaton of TNT = 4.2 x 1015 joules (J). Facts: These are things that we either know or are specifically told in the movie. - Earths radius 3965 miles - Earths density 5500 kg/m3 - area of Texas 267,338 square miles - speed of asteroid 22,000 mph - final separation of pieces 2 x 3965 miles + 2 x 400 miles - area of a circle A = r2 - volume of a sphere V = 4/3 r3 - Kinetic Energy 1/2 m v2 (kg m2/s2 <=> joules) - length conversion 1 mile = 1609 meters - energy conversion 1 megaton of TNT = 4.184 x 1015 joules Assumptions: These are reasonable values for the parameters which are not specified in the movie. - density of asteroid = density of earth (5520 kg/m3) - shape of asteroid sphere (this is not necessary but it simplifies our calculations) - nuclear bomb yield 100 megatons of TNT - time from blast to Earth 2 hrs (10.8 hrs from Moon to Earth - 8 hrs drilling - .8 hrs land/leave) - energy conversion to KE 100% Analysis: 1) If Texas had the same area as it currently does but instead was shaped as a circle what would the radius of Texas be in miles and meters? We will assume this is the radius of the asteroid.

2) If the asteroid has the radius calculated in 1) and the density of Earth is 5520 kg/m3, what is the mass of the asteroid?

3) If all of the energy of the bomb is converted to Kinetic Energy of the two pieces of asteroid moving apart, what is the speed of each piece away from the center?

4) After two hours, when they reach Earth, how far apart (meters) are the two halves of the asteroid? How far apart (meters) did the movie say that they must be?

5) Lets calculate backwards now. How much Kinetic Energy would the asteroid pieces require in order to achieve the required separation in two hours? How many 100 megaton bombs would this require?

Conclusions: The fate of the Earth in such a scenario should be quite apparent. Assuming you lack the firepower calculated in 5) but posses the ability to split the asteroid with the speed calculated in 3) what must you do to save the Earth? Would you vote to increase funding to NASA for sky searches to find potential Earth orbit crossing asteroids?