Flying In Space!

First and foremost, we’re not talking about rocket powered anything, this is a purely hypothetical situation in which you are magically given one of those skin tight flight suits with wings under your arms.. wing suits I believe they’re satirically called (I don’t know the actual professional aviation name for them). With a powerful enough rocket, you can leave any surface of any object, including the sun and any planetary body. We’re not including black holes for a reason that I hope you know why. Let’s start by laying some ground rules. At the beginning of any new scenario, you begin standing at the equator on the surface, unless specified otherwise.

Poof! You’ve just been given a CryNet Nanosuit with wings, model 2.0 (because I gave them some updated technology to incorporate). It does everything as listed on the wiki page, but it also has no limitations what so ever:

  • It has the uncanny ability to synthesize breathable air regardless of the external conditions
  • It is completely chemical, impact and pressure resistant – and it tells you what numbers it’s dealing with too
  • It generates and injects sustenance for you to survive (that’s food and water people..)
  • and it has upgraded batteries that have no limitations to length of it’s own abilities

So, don your new garbs and journey with me through most of the objects in our solar system, starting with that big yellow (white) ball of fire called Sol (that’s the Sun dummy..).

So, you’re on the surface of the Sun. First off we’re using photosphere measurements here – that’s the surface of the glowing plasma of the Sun, not the actual iron surface several hundred KM below the photosphere. It’s currently about 5500 degrees Celsius right now (~5778 K, 9940 F), and about 82 times the pressure of Earth. Escaping the surface and trying to fly, is next to impossible, as you’re going to have to consistently thrust upwards with a minimum of 617.7 kilometers a second squared just to lift off. More so if you ever want to escape in your lifetime, because the Sun is huge. Assuming the temperature doesn’t fry you to a crisp (note: it gets much hotter as you leave the sun, into the millions of degrees in temperature), the pressure itself would crush you if that suit ever gave out, even for a femtosecond.

Somehow you managed to escape the surface, and you’re now on Venus. Equally as crappy as the surface of the sun, it’s much cooler (when compared to the sun) and a lot less pressure but now you’re dealing with something completely different: acid, sulfuric acid, and there’s lots of it. It’s dripping off your magical suit but if that suit had any bare metal, in a few seconds that acid would eat it away, then you’d be dealing with the 270 degrees C. Get a calculator, I’m not converting every temperature listed here into Kelvin and Fahrenheit. The pressure above your head is a crisp 60 times the pressure of Earth, and if you could run fast enough, you could actually lift yourself off the ground for a short distance. An invulnerable plane could actually fly on Venus not powered with just a few people pushing it. Take a good high jump up into the atmosphere, about 50km up or so, and you’d be actually OK to disrobe from your suit for a little bit. The acid would still be eating you, but the pressure and temperature would be almost Earth like – still not breathable though, so you better put that suit back on, and quick.

Now we’re sailing through space, and it’s time to go to Big Bertha, aka. Jupiter. First off, if you’re close enough to Jupiter in any way in which you can feel the atmospheric conditions, you’re already going to die unless you have some pretty substantial rockets strapped to your feet. You’d be falling to the surface of Jupiter (before you throw your grade school astronomy textbook at me, Jupiter DOES have a surface) at a rate of about 960km/h. Here’s the kicker though, as you went deeper and deeper into the atmosphere, assuming your suit held up against the pressure, you’d actually stop moving towards the center. Jupiter has a surface of metallic hydrogen, but it gets so dense so quickly, that there’s no liquid state to the matter cycle. It goes from gaseous to solid in a smooth transition. You’d eventually see a big deep crater and your body at the bottom of it.

Because you’re awesome and have this magic suit, you can jump out of said crater just fine, and leave Jupiter’s orbit. We’re going to go visit the other gas giants of the solar system, then swing back to Saturn at the end of this article. Saturn itself, along with Uranus and Neptune are all similar in that the winds are very high, the pressures are near the same (yes it does variate), and generally is pretty boring. You’d see some blue clouds on Uranus and Neptune, and Saturn would shred your suit to bits as it’s sand-blasting winds atomically wore you down to nothing. The suit is still invulnerable though, don’t worry, that’s just a “what if” moment. Pluto, our long lost forgotten dwarf planet, has nearly no gravity. It has some, in that a good strong jump could send you kilometers into the air, and with only 1.3km/s escape velocity, you could leave Pluto’s orbit relatively easy.

Let’s swing back to Saturn’s neighborhood, because there’s a moon there that Scientists are most interested in, called Titan. Consisting mostly of water ice, liquid methane and liquid ammonia all layered and intermixed below the crust. Since the chemicals are mixing, the temperature of the water remains at a cool -97 degrees, well below Earth’s freezing range, but this is also due in part to the pressure difference and a few other factors. A slight jog on the surface with a hang glider could lift you off and you could soar majestically into the sunset. You could pedal a bike with small wings and lift off; hell, you could even wear flippers and probably jump up substantially high enough to deploy your wing suit arms and sustain flight. By far the coolest (literally) of any of the places we’ve visited in my opinion – I’d love to be able to jump up high enough to sustain a flight around the planet. It being only about 5000km around, due to the speeds you could attain from the lower air pressure, you could circle it in a few hours to a day..

Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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