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    Shuttle launched on moon and in vacuum

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    Suppose a shuttle were launched from a launchpad on the Moon instead of the Earth's surface. What changes would we observe?

    Suppose it were launched from a launchpad in space in vacuum. Would it work? What changes would we observe? Explain your answer.

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    Solution Preview

    Before I answer the question, let's look at how rockets are propelled.

    In the rocket hydrogen reacts with oxygen and the exhaust gas is ejected in one direction. Conservation of momentum then implies that the rocket must move in the opposite direction. It is thus not the case that the exhaust gas must hit a surface to make the rocket propel itself forward.

    To understand this a bit better, consider a rocket without an exhaust. When we let the oxygen and the hydrogen react, the exhaust gas cannot escape the rocket. The pressure inside the rocket would then increase to very high values but the rocket won't move (we assume that the rocket is made of such strong materials that it won't explode). Inside the ...

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