When a bullet is fired from a bullet train, how long does it have to travel to get to a distant target? According to NASA, which has developed an animated series of data related to its ambitious human/robot hybrid aircraft design, the longest distance traveled by a bullet train – which is three miles in length – takes 48 minutes. But, NASA calculates, it takes about 450 years for a bullet to get to New York City, having traveled a mere 20 million miles. However, this calculation implies the plane would have to travel at least 4,500 miles per day, a figure that, at a million miles per day, is embarrassingly short. Add in the extreme weather conditions, and the danger to life and limb, and we shouldn’t hold our breath for the bullet-plane.
In fact, the NASA experiment was short on practicality. It aimed to measure the speed of the gas and drogue chute that would air escape from at the end of the aircraft during a crash-landing in order to calculate the extreme stresses on the plane in such a scenario. While this exercise proved that the aircraft would likely fail in a plane crash, having remained airborne would be considerably more difficult. Sadly, things went well, but it’s unlikely that the NASA researchers would bother with balloon- and rocket-powered aircraft anytime soon.
Read the full story at National Geographic.
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