Science Questions

What would a propeller plane do in space?

Wed, 3rd Jul 2013

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Shawn Peterson asked:

Hello Love the show


I just recently watched a Dr Who. episode and at one point they send a WW2 aircraft in space.


My question is, what would be the effect on the aircraft if you turned on a high powered propeller in zero G?


SHAWN from




Mark - So, if youíve got a spitfire with one prop at the front, letís get over the idea that you actually need air, oxygen to burn the fuel to make the engine go around. That aside, as soon as you start the propeller going around one way, the plane itself is going to start turning the opposite way. There's going to be this reverse reaction to it.

Kat - Because there's no air for it to push against.

Mark - Yeah, there's no air for the propeller to push against. You might get a bit of forward motion from exhaust coming from the engine, pushing out towards the back. But overall, I think the main motion is going to be that the plane is going to start going around in the opposite direction to the prop.

Chris - Dizzying ride, isnít it?

Mark - Yeah, itís going to make you sick.


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