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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
 
We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
 
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Revision as of 01:59, 30 October 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Barge
My life goal is to launch a barge into the air and have it land on one of Elon Musk's rockets.
Title text: My life goal is to launch a barge into the air and have it land on one of Elon Musk's rockets.

Explanation

This is another one of the "My Hobby" series, where Randall tells about a strange hobby. With three drawings he shows the idea about the idea, which is explained in details in the caption.

The launch company SpaceX is currently testing a reusable rocket system, where the first rocket stage is capable of landing back on either the launch pad or an autonomous spaceport drone ship after launch (See this video displaying both types of landing, from when the sea landing was successful the first time). The rockets guide themselves in to land by aiming towards a giant launch pad with the "X" from the SpaceX logo painted on it. Randall imagines creating a similar-looking barge and placing it near the intended landing site, except his barge's platform would be hollow in the middle with only a sheet of paper supporting the part where the rocket would land.

Since the paper is painted to look just like the real SpaceX it is presumably the goal of this setup to trick a returning first stage rocket into falling into the sea, similar to the old trapping pit. If a rocket attempts to land on Randall's barge, it will quickly burn through the paper and fall into the sea and explode (see example in video above).

This "my hobby" is probably the most destructive one so far, as it would result in the loss of the nine space rocket engines at the bottom of the first rocket stage. It would also likely be the most expensive even disregarding the costs to others, due to the costs associated with buying and damaging a barge specifically for a prank (though it could potentially be reused if it did not get destroyed by the exploding rocket).

This hobby seems more appropriate for Black Hat, considering that he is a real classhole, showing that Black Hat is as much part of Randall as Cueball.

The title text plays on the incredible difficulty of successfully landing a rocket on a barge, which Elon Musk was the first (and so far only) to do successfully with his SpaceX company (Note that other companies has done something similar at least on land, like Blue Origin who managed to return ther first sate before SpaceX did, but see this video about Why Blue Origin’s rocket landing shouldn’t be compared to SpaceX).

Reusing rockets like this is a feat that has only recently become possible, some 60 years after the launch of the first satellite Sputnik 1. In the title text Randall thus imagines an even more implausible idea of reversing Elon Musk's idea by launching an entire barge into the air and then have it land on one of Elon Musk's rockets. Launching a barge in the first place would be tremendously difficult - they are big, heavy and not very aerodynamic. Maneuvering it through the air precisely enough to one come down on top of a rocket would be much more difficult, but if it worked it would certainly destroy the rocket. Randall though thinks the irony of reversing the feat of landing a rocket on a barge is so funny he has made it into one of his life goals.

This comic was published on the week following SpaceX's Iridium 1 mission, where the first stage of the rocket which delivered 10 satellites into orbit successfully landed on a barge near California. This was filmed from the returning stage 1 and also from further away (See more details of the launch here). It marked the seventh time SpaceX successfully landed and recovered its booster on a commercial mission.

Transcript

[There is one panel in this comic with the main drawing at the bottom. Two smaller drawings are inserted above this drawing to explain the idea.]
[The first insert shows a barge with no center and a large piece of paper with the SpaceX logo above the barge.]
[The second insert shows the paper stretched over the hole.]
[The main drawing at the bottom shows a cross-section of the barge in water, showing there is only water below the paper. Above the paper the large first stage, without the top part with the payload, of a reusable rocket is attempting to land on the paper on the SapceX logo (not visible in this view). It is still so high above the fake barge that the exhaust fire below the rocket is nowhere near the paper.]
[Caption below the panels:]
My hobby: Hollowing out the center of a barge, stretching paper over the hole painted with the SpaceX logo, and leaving it floating offshore near launch sites.


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