Rocket launch delayed, but the science can still excite kids

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — It’s officially a no-go for the Space-X Falcon 9 rocket launch. They had to scrub the historic launch on Wednesday, just minutes before lift-off, due to weather.

Now they’ll try to do it over the weekend.

“You’ve got something moving 17,000 miles per hour around the earth, and you’re going to have to have something meet it,” said John Eric Goff, a physics professor at the University of Lynchburg and chair of the Physics department.

The rocket had to be launched at 4:33 p.m. The weather delay shows just how exact the timing had to be, as Goff explained.

“They are doing calculations based on where the rocket’s going to be launched on the earth’s surface, where the earth is oriented in space, and they want to make sure they get that nice eastward launch so they get the earth’s turning just right so they can get the boost from the earth and based on where the space station is right now.”

The science is pretty complicated.

“You’re going to have to get this thing launched seven, eight, nine miles per second, just to get it off the ground and into orbit. Then you have to get this orbit just right to dock with something moving 17,000 miles an hour around the earth.”

But Goff says a simple experiment can make it feel grounded.

“Take your kids to a playground,” he said. “Get them near a merry-go-round. Have your kid stand on the merry-go-round without it moving. Set a bucket or something maybe eight or 10 feet away, and have them try to throw a tennis ball or racket ball or something into the bucket.”

That should give them a baseline to better understand the next step of the experiment.

“Now, safely secured, holding on to a rail, give the merry-go-round a little spin, try to throw the ball into the bucket, and that’s going to give you a sense of what it’s like to hit a target while you’re moving.”

He says if and when the rocket does launch, he hopes it will inspire children and parents.

“I hope parents will hype it up and get their kids to watch it and maybe think a little bit about science.”

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