How Fast Can You Travel Before It Kills You?

Illustration: Jim Cooke (Gizmodo)

Giz AsksIn this Gizmodo series, we ask questions about all from space to butts and get answers from a accumulation of experts.  

The tellurian physique can withstand a lot before giving adult and dying: falls from second-story windows, years of heated piece abuse, wolf attacks, etc. We have a flattering good thought of what it can’t tolerate, though some ways of failing now have perceived reduction courtesy than others, and speed is one of these. We’ve all seen cinema of people relocating during top-speed—but is there a quickness over that those blown-back cheeks indeed fly off your face?

For this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to experts in space transport and physiology to figure out how discerning we can transport before it indeed kills you. Technically, it turns out, there’s no genuine extent to that number; it all depends on a conditions. Speed can kill you—but it can’t do a pursuit alone.


James A. Pawelczyk

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Physiology, PennState, who flew aboard a NASA STS-90 Space Shuttle idea as a Payload Specialist

I could be in a re-entering spacecraft, and we could be relocating during 25 times a speed of sound. Clearly, that wouldn’t kill me—astronauts do that on a unchanging basement via a year. But if we were to hang my conduct out a window, we’d have an wholly opposite story.

If we paraphrase a question, then, to “what is a maximal energetic vigour a tellurian physique can withstand”—well, we don’t have a discerning series for you, that would have to be calculated, though a emanate becomes that we can’t usually spin it into a velocity, since it depends on a middle you’re roving through, that determines a energetic pressure.

If you’re in a air, that’s going to contingent on what altitude you’re at; if you’re in water, it’s going to be a most slower velocity, since a energetic vigour is going to be larger during a same speed, as it’s a thicker, some-more unenlightened medium.

And afterwards there’s a emanate of acceleration, that is also an emanate of pressure—the force opposite a body. Now you’re traffic with how quick we accelerate. And before it kills you, that’s going to be a duty of: what is a acceleration, and what is a rate during that you’re experiencing it? We’ve seen humans experience, for a unequivocally brief duration of time, as most as 40 Gs acceleration, that is 40 times a force of gravity—and they’ve survived.

Colonel John Stapp’s extraordinary self-experiments in a 1960s on rocket sleds are value observant here. He was not usually a troops questioner in assign of those experiments, though a theme as well.

They were designed to exam ejection chair technology, during a time when a US was building supersonic aircraft. The doubt they wanted to answer was: what’s a stable speed that a tellurian can eject from an aircraft? It depends on altitude, though also on how quick we accelerate divided from a aircraft. And indeed we did see tellurian presence during turn as good as 40 Gs. Having pronounced that, if we were to put an defenceless tellurian being on a centrifuge, and to put them even as high as 5 or 6 Gs, and were we to afterwards stagger them continuously, to a indicate that they were to remove consciousness, afterwards continue to stagger them, they would die, ultimately. If we were to take a chairman and postpone them during one time a force of gravity, and concede them to hang there in a strap until they upheld out, and continued to leave them there—yes, we could means genocide that way, though that would take a matter of many mins or hours.


John Linder

Professor, Physics and Astronomy, The College of Wooster

It’s not a speed that kills you, it’s a acceleration, and speeds are relative.

Fifty years ago, Apollo astronauts reached roughly 25 thousand miles per hour relations to Earth when descending behind from a moon. But usually station on Earth’s equator, we transport about a thousand miles per hour relations to Earth’s poles, due to Earth’s spin, and 67 thousand miles per hour relations to a sun, due to Earth’s orbit, and so on.

You could use mid-sized black holes to gravitationally slingshot crewed spacecrafts to nearby light speeds, though you’d need gigantic appetite to accelerate a mass to light speed itself. That 670-million-miles-per-hour speed extent is invariant, and tragedy between a relations speeds of Newton’s mechanics and a immutable light speed of Maxwell’s electromagnetism is famously reconciled by Einstein’s alteration of mechanics nearby light speed.


Jonathan Clark

Associate Professor of Neurology and Space Medicine during Baylor College of Medicine, who worked during NASA from 1997 to 2005 and was a six-time Space Shuttle organisation surgeon

Speed is usually a distance-per-time-unit measure, so a constraints to speed are unequivocally contingent on other environmental factors.

The quickness isn’t a emanate as most as a change in velocity, that is acceleration. When we go to space, we have to get adequate speed to get out of Earth’s sobriety field. To get to reduce orbit, astronauts have to get to 17,500 miles per hour, and to do that they have to change their velocity. They launch such that they’re holding a sobriety from a front of their chest to a behind of their chest—that’s called a G direction. Typically, a best approach to continue it is going from front to back, that is since astronauts launch on a couch, sitting down.

The other imprisonment of quickness is in a atmosphere. John Paul Stapp, when he did his sled run, got adult to 46, 47 Gs, and he was substantially going tighten to 5 or 600 miles an hour. If we looked during his face, we would see that it was being blown and heavily distorted, and that his hands were indeed calm on his path so they wouldn’t beat around. Speed going by an atmosphere causes what’s called aerodynamic flail, and that can kill you. When you’re in outdoor space we can go as discerning as we want—but we need a insurance of a vehicle, or a vigour suit, to keep we from a bearing to a opening of space.

We know that humans have left 25,000 miles per hour going to a moon—the speed itself is not an issue, it was especially a acceleration to get out of a Earth’s atmosphere that they had to endure.

Once they’re on their approach and speeding up, there’s no constraints to speed. We’ll eventually send humans to mars and they’ll be going 35,000 miles per hour.

The dual programs we was concerned with, a Red Bull Stratus and a space dive—the idea was for a tellurian but a car to mangle a speed of sound, and that was achieved since they wore a vigour suit. The reason they didn’t have aerodynamic beat issues was that there’s unequivocally small atmosphere above a hundred thousand feet

You can achieve unequivocally high speeds—at slightest supersonic ones—as prolonged as you’re protected, or (if you’re giveaway descending from space) you’re during an windy firmness that’s not going to means that beat to develop.


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