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Author Topic: Could two astronauts fling each other into a higher orbit?  (Read 1926 times)

Mark Smith

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Mark Smith  asked the Naked Scientists:

If two astronauts in spacesuits were in orbit around the earth at normal velocities (17,000mph I believe) and they were alternately pulling on each others left arm with their own right arms in order to spin themselves up faster and faster.

Then if one of them released the other would that other be sent into a higher orbit if they were to release at the appropriate angle to do that?

Also would the releasing astronaut be flung in the opposite direction and fall towards the Earth or would he be able to stay in the orbit he was in already?

What do you think?


 

lyner

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Could two astronauts fling each other into a higher orbit?
« Reply #1 on: 15/12/2008 12:00:35 »
The centre of mass of the two would stay in the same orbit. One could 'throw' the other into a higher energy orbit but he would end up in a lower energy orbit. The total angular momentum would be the same as before.
It is interesting to note that neither orbit would be circular. With just one impulse the orbits would have to be elliptical; one would be bigger than the other and they would keep crossing each other at the height they started at.
 

Offline BorgVampire

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Could two astronauts fling each other into a higher orbit?
« Reply #2 on: 17/12/2008 13:10:32 »
Thanks for that Sophiecentaur, it still seems a bit wierd that they go around each other as they move around the planet though but I imagine it is something to do with their own individual gravities reacting with one another as well as the Earth.
I can picture it in my head better now thanks, bye for now.
 

lyner

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Could two astronauts fling each other into a higher orbit?
« Reply #3 on: 17/12/2008 22:55:52 »
If they were out in really deep space, they would eventually cone back to the same spot at the same speed as they parted.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Could two astronauts fling each other into a higher orbit?
« Reply #3 on: 17/12/2008 22:55:52 »

 

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