2125: Luna 2

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Luna 2
The flags were probably vaporized on impact, because we launched it before we had finished figuring out how to land. That makes sense from an engineering standpoint, but also feels like a metaphor.
Title text: The flags were probably vaporized on impact, because we launched it before we had finished figuring out how to land. That makes sense from an engineering standpoint, but also feels like a metaphor.


This comic is referring to Luna 2, the first man-made object to make contact with the surface of the moon, and consequently, as stated in the comic, the first man-made object to touch another world. On September 13, 1959, it hit the Moon's surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus.

Megan is sitting in front of a computer, and telling Cueball about the Luna 2. She shows a picture of the probe and explains that the probe was designed to explode on impact, thus scattering multiple metal Soviet flags and ribbons on the surface of the Moon. They compare it to throwing a shrapnel grenade with flags in it at the moon (see Trivia).

In truth, the idea behind the two explosive spheres was rather clever. The spacecraft arrived at the moon at more than 3 km/s - and with uncontrolled orientation. But no matter which orientation that these spheres were in as they arrived at the moon, the force of the explosion would cause the commemorative plaques nearest to the direction of motion to be thrown even faster at the moon (and, presumably, be vaporized) - while the ones from the opposite side of the sphere would be slowed down by the force of the explosion and might possibly arrive at the surface intact.

Cueball's observation that it is "on-brand" for humans to litter another world with an explosion of nationalist iconography immediately upon reaching it, is a reference to the vastly numerous historical instances when, upon setting foot on territory for the first time, humans "conquer" it, by planting flags on the first thing they see. Alternately, it may be "on-brand" for humanity's first interaction with a new object to be striking it with a weapon.

The title text refers to the fact that for the Luna 2 mission it was more important to just get to the moon at all rather than have a sophisticated landing mechanism. This was due to the fact that it happened during the space race between the USA and USSR and both countries tried to reach significant milestones in space exploration. The metaphorical interpretation is that sometimes people get overly excited after an initial breakthrough and dive into projects without thinking them through or considering long term consequences. This often leads to the project failing or barely achieving its aim. This often goes along with the confidence to be able to "wing it" making up a solution on the spot when a problem comes up. It may also refer to how immediately after traveling to the moon, humanity will die.

Note that Randall makes a subtle yet strong declaration that he is an engineer, a human, and an Earthling first, and American second, by saying "we" in the title text, regarding this effort to reach the Moon.


[Cueball is standing behind while Megan sits at a laptop.]
Megan: Huh. Luna 2, the first artificial object to touch another world, carried a sphere made of steel Soviet flag emblems.
[A patterned sphere is shown blowing up to pieces.]
It was designed to blow apart on impact, scattering tiny metal flags and ribbons across the surface of the moon.
[Close-up of Cueball and Megan's faces.]
Cueball: So the first physical contact humans had with a heavenly body...
Megan: ...was throwing a shrapnel grenade full of flags at it.
Cueball: Well, it's on-brand for us, at least.


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Second comic in a row about space. The comic seems fairly self-explanatory to me, but the title text might need a bit more work to explain. I can't even figure out exactly what it means. Something about rushing to get the bare minimum done before the deadline? 17:04, 18 March 2019 (UTC)

I've added an explanation for the title text but am unsure of the "engineering standpoint". Maybe someone with knowledge in the area can elaborate on that. Is landing inherently more difficult than launching? 08:42, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
It makes sense from an engineering point-of-view because it tested if we can get things to the moon and that our math fits with something cheap and worthless. That cheap and worthless thing we threw at the moon? Nationalism 17:02, 19 March 2019 (UTC)

Probably about how the engineers wanted to test what they could do before they could actually do it. (Oh,and Luna 2 impacted at 22 km/s) 20:10, 18 March 2019 (GMT)

OMG, the fake explanation is ROTFL funny! Hopefully whomever writes the correct explanation will keep this first bit of verbiage, just for the humor value, but in case that doesn’t happen, for those who don’t want to dig through the edit history, it currently says:

“This comic describes one of the first faked moon missions, Luna II. The Communist sham was designed to make it look like the Moon was reachable by humans, in order to protect the threatened Zionist conspiracy.
By discussing this as if it was fact, (((Randall))) is subtly reinforcing Jewish neuroprogramming causing people to believe in ridiculous child's fantasies like space unquestioningly.”

(And to be crystal clear, I didn’t write it!) 17:19, 18 March 2019 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I fail so see how that explanation is in any way funny. It's just confusing and annoying. 17:20, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
it’s not funny *now* because someone deleted it. Basically someone wrote an explanation as if the moon landings were faked, and extended the conspiracy theory to have USA and USSR cooperating on perpetuating the conspiracy because somehow it benefits Israel. It was clearly tongue-in-cheek, like when people claim that the Earth is flat. Given the recent anti-Semitic comments that have cropped up here I took it as an effort to make fun of those people (the ones posting bizarre stuff) 17:35, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
Alright, that's the part that wasn't clear to me. You can never really tell when someone online is being sarcastic. 17:48, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
Depressingly, I don't think they're joking. I think they truly believe that space exploration is "fake", & that reaching the moon with a rocket is impossible, & that somehow almost the entire industrialized world is participating in some nonsensical "Jewish" conspiracy to maintain an illusion of space exploration. Even assuming that so many people & industries could maintain such a complex & widespread facade for multiple generations without reasonably verifiable evidence of its falsehood coming to light, I struggle to think of a good reason why so many people would knowingly participate in it without ever acting as a whistleblower. As I think perhaps an old xkcd once observed: If NASA really faked the moon landing, shouldn't they have faked a similarly momentous achievement by now? Anyway, I find it far more believable that a few wealthy people find it profitable to maintain a cadre of deluded obstructionists, than that all trans-orbital space travel is being faked. And speaking only for myself personally, I think Israel has terrible governmental policies & NASA could be doing a lot more grandiose space exploration but doesn't because there's not enough money in it yet. 20:53, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
Apollo missions with astronauts were NOT profitable (everything actually gained could've been done by robots). The only reason they were done were that USA wanted to do them before SSSR: it was question of national pride. Next grandiose space exploration will came either when USA will need to feel the pride again, possibly after Chinese land somewhere, or ... when US president will want to show how big d*ck he has. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:17, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
Hilarious how some people might actually believe this, but Explainxkcd isn't a place for people to shitpost. If you see things like this in an explanation just revert it immediately. Herobrine (talk) 22:22, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
The actual sad part is it probably isn’t a joke. At least it’s a long and drawn out poorly constructed one. People are idiots, and flat earthers can be real. This person isn’t making fun of them. Not in a helpful way at the very least. Netherin5 (talk) 14:00, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
What are you talking about. I looked it over again, and it's 100% definitely a joke shitpost. Whether you think it's funny or not is up to you, but it is definitely intended to be a joke. I've seen a lot of conspiracists, and this ain't one of them. CCCVVVA (talk) 08:10, 30 March 2019 (UTC)
What I don't get is what anyone who subscribes to flat earth, "9/11 was an inside job", anti-vax, chemtrails, etc. would get out of a webcomic that features math and science prominently. 16:23, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
A website full of people to troll and “debate”. Netherin5 (talk) 16:47, 19 March 2019 (UTC)

Not sure how to tan on mobile (feel free to do so and delete this tidbit if you want to) but: The throwing a frag filled with flags is symbolic of the standard human explorer tactic. Basically, we tend to shoot first whenever we go to a new place and then promptly place a claim, whether the preexisting landscape has been claimed or not. For instance, the Native Americans. Like, all of them. The tile text, on the other hand, represents attempts to find a solution to half a problem or maybe representing the aforementioned claims bit. But I could be reading into this too much 17:22, 18 March 2019 (UTC)

I am using this website to share information, but several IP editors are consistently reverting my edits, even when I leave in their unsubstantiated claims. Help. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm sorry, "sharing information"? I think you misspelled "vandalizing explanations, blatantly lying and spreading misinformation." Do you have anything better to do than vandalize a wiki and complaining about your shitposts being removed? Also, if you're going to leave comments like this at least make sure you have the courage to sign your comments. Herobrine (talk) 22:13, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
You should probably sign your posts to clarify who is having the problem. 17:22, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
What a wonderful pot-calling-the-kettle-black example: These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 05:50, 23 March 2019 (UTC)
A: Jews everything!
B: Jews nothing.
A: Stop it with your unsubstantiated claims!

When I read the "it's on brand for us", I also interpreted into it, that we Humans tend to litter everything with our rubbish... 08:45, 20 March 2019 (UTC)

vaporized on impact?[edit]

Does anyone here have links to evidence for or against Randall's claim in the title text? What was the impact speed? - Frankie (talk) 19:30, 18 March 2019 (UTC) I mean if they weren't vaporized, how would we tell outside of flags randomly bumping into the ISS? All of the ones that go to Earth would burn up. 19:40, 18 March 2019 (UTC)

If the impact was at 22 km/s, as stated above, that would be about 79,000 km/h, or about 49,000 mph. So... pretty fast? -boB (talk) 20:42, 18 March 2019 (UTC)
That impact speed still sounds ridiculously high, Escape velocity to break free of earth orbit is, IIRC, 11.186 km/s (roughly 40K kmph or 25K mph), and it takes a massive rocket to achieve that.  Most of a trans-lunar flight is unpowered using either momentum built up by the initial launch thrust or the gravitational pull of the moon itself. I find it hard to believe that impact speed, even allowing for gravitation influence of the moon itself, could result in an impact at almost 2X the speed needed to get away from Earth in the first place.RAGBRAIvet (talk) 07:24, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
22 km/s seems to be wrong. Wikipedia along with a few quick google searches put the impact speed at around 3 - 3.3 km/s. To me (far from an expert) that appears more realistic but still fast enough to cause significant damage. Whether things are literally vaporized at those speeds I leave for others to determine. 11:31, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
The whole point of the "bomb" was to avoid all of the little "flags" (they actually contained the coat of arms) from being vaporized. The idea was to take a sphere, hurtling towards the moon at speed X - then to explode with an explosive speed of Y. The flags at the 'front' of the bomb would then be propelled towards the moon at speed (X+Y) but the ones at the 'back' would be moving at (X-Y)...it was hoped that this slowing down from the explosion would result in at least some of the flags arriving intact onto the lunar surface.
It's a very clever idea because it works even if the sphere is tumbling in some uncontrolled way...and it's VERY simple.
SteveBaker (talk) 20:37, 20 March 2019 (UTC)

navigation buttons[edit]

Anyone know why you can't get to this explain page from 2124 by way of menu bar/whatever it's called? 21:21, 18 March 2019 (UTC)

Did you mean the talk page of 2124? You can click on "Discussion" on top of page when you are at 2124. I just checked and it worked fine. -- 01:37, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
Or (as I suddenly realized) maybe you are asking to navigate from 2124 to 2125. The "next>" button also worked fine as of this comment. -- 01:45, 19 March 2019 (UTC)
The "NEXT>" button from 2124 was missing for most of the day, but looks like someone eventually fixed it.​ -boB (talk) 13:39, 19 March 2019 (UTC)

shrapnel Trivia[edit]

I disagree with the statement(s) in that section, or at least with the label "incorrect" -- it's at most "using the term loosely". The link provided goes to a "shrapnel shell", which is not quite the same thing as the idea of "shrapnel" anything. Having "pellets [launched] at a target" is sufficient IMO, even if in this case they are flags. As that page clearly says,
The term "shrapnel" nowadays is often used to refer to lethal fragments of the casing of shells and bombs
Language is fluid, and words evolve to have other meanings besides their original one. -- 06:28, 4 April 2019 (UTC)