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Scrooge, Earthrise, and Ultima Thule

24 Dec 2018, 17:37 UTC
Scrooge, Earthrise, and Ultima Thule
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

As Ebenezer Scrooge found, Christmas Eve is a fitting time to reflect on the past, consider the present, and glance into the future. Scrooge wasn’t thinking about space flight, though when he asked the ghost of his deceased partner, Marley, if he traveled fast, the reply was “On the wings of the wind.” To put this into context, the highest non-tornado wind speed ever recorded on Earth is 253 miles per hour, so for Scrooge’s time in Victorian England, this truly was fast. Compared to planes and rockets in the modern era of flight, however, it lags way behind. The cruising speed of a Boeing 747, for instance, is 550 miles per hour. Then there’s the International Space Station, which travels a bit more than 17,000 miles per hour while orbiting Earth.
A half century ago, the Apollo 8 spacecraft had to exceed speeds of 25,000 miles per hour in order to escape the pull of Earth’s gravity and head toward the Moon. Precisely 50 years ago today—December 24, 1968—Apollo 8 arrived at the Moon and orbited 10 times. It was on this flight that astronaut Bill Anders captured one of the most compelling and influential pictures of all time, ...

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