1074: Moon Landing

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Moon Landing
Ok, so Spirit and Opportunity are pretty awesome. And Kepler. And New Horizons, Cassini, Curiosity, TiME, and Project M. But c'mon, if the Earth were a basketball, in 40 years no human's been more than half an inch from the surface.
Title text: Ok, so Spirit and Opportunity are pretty awesome. And Kepler. And New Horizons, Cassini, Curiosity, TiME, and Project M. But c'mon, if the Earth were a basketball, in 40 years no human's been more than half an inch from the surface.


Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator. As of writing he is the "Frederick P. Rose Director" (a special honorary title) of the Hayden Planetarium. He has appeared on many different shows, ranging from The Discovery Channel to The Big Bang Theory.

There are a number of conspiracy theories claiming that the moon landing was a hoax. Tyson offers a pretty compelling argument against them, but Megan presents an even more convincing refutation, snarkily implying that NASA really hasn't done anything spectacular since 1969.

And Cueball responds with a pun on the word "burn". Burn can mean a particularly effective insult, or it can mean the consumption of fuel for propulsion. In this case, the "burn" was so effective it pushed the spaceship out of orbit (which usually takes a very large amount of burning, depending on the gravity of the planet or moon).

The final sentence of title text notes that all manned missions since the Moon landings have taken place in low-earth orbit, which is barely far off of the Earth's surface. If the Earth were scaled to the size of a regulation basketball, approximately 24 cm (9-1/4 inches) in diameter, those manned missions would have all taken place within 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) of the ball's surface. At this scale the Moon would be at a distance of 7.7 m (25.3 ft). Unmanned missions, such as those named above or the Voyager and Mariner probes of the 1960s and 1970s, have traveled much further.


[Cueball is sitting at a table with a laptop open. His hands are on the keys.]
Cueball: Hah- Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a great reply to people who doubt astronauts went to the moon.
Voice off-screen: Oh?
Cueball: "Atop 3,000 tons of rocket fuel, where else do you think they were headed?"
[The voice off screen turns out to be Megan. She is depicted, and now Cueball is off-screen.]
Megan: Cute. But it overlooks an even simpler argument.
Cueball: Which is?
[Both Megan and Cueball are now visible. Cueball has turned his chair around to face her.]
Megan: If NASA were willing to fake great accomplishments, they'd have a second one by now.
Cueball: Ouch.
Megan: ...Too mean?
Cueball: That burn was so harsh I think you deorbited.


  • Spirit and Opportunity are Mars Exploration Rover missions (MER) and Opportunity is an ongoing robotic space mission exploring the planet Mars. The fate of Spirit is here: 695: Spirit.
  • Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.
  • New Horizons is a robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to flyby and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra and more, with an estimated arrival date at the Pluto-Charon system of July 14, 2015.
  • Cassini–Huygens is a flagship-class NASA-ESA-ASI spacecraft orbiting to the Saturn system. It studies the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there in 2004.
  • Curiosity is a Mars rover launched on November 26, 2011. Currently operating at the planet's surface as planned, landed in Gale Crater at about 05:31 UTC on August 6, 2012. The rover's objectives include searching for the evidence of past life, studying the Martian climate, studying the Martian geology, and collecting data for a future manned mission to Mars.
  • TiME or Titan Mare Explorer is a proposed spacecraft lander that would explore Saturn moon Titan oceans, the largest moon of the planet Saturn, and would perform the first exploration of an extraterrestrial sea.
  • Project M was a proposed NASA project headed by Stephen J. Altemus, to send a Robonaut to the Moon.

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The distance from Earth to Moon (the farthest we have gone away from earth) is twenty four times the diameter of Earth. If the Earth was a Basketball, the farther we have gone would be three meters from it, as the basketball is about 12 cm. The Randall statement is either wrong or purposely wrong. 00:55, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

The previous comment is wrong because the title text says that "[...]if the Earth were a basketball, in 40 years no human's been more than half an inch from the surface." Randall said "in 40 years" not the life of human space travel as a whole.
Further clarification: The last manned moon landing was in 1972, 40 years ago. Since then, no human has traveled past close Earth orbit. A regulation men's basketball is 29.5 inches in circumference, or roughly 9.4 inches (~21cm) in diameter. Using the basketball as a model for the Earth, half an inch off the surface of the basketball is about 340km from the surface of the Earth - a decent approximation for the average orbital distance of the International Space Station and other recent targets of human spaceflight. 19:29, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

Removed text that reads like a personal comment in the Title Text section: "And that is terrible to hear in the image text that we haven't been more than half an inch from the surface of the Earth if it were the size of a basketball. Personally, I'm putting most of my hope in Space X. With most of the NASA layoffs, a lot of the people went over to Space X. (A private company dedicated to space travel founded by former eBay founder Elon Musk.) I think they (or another private company) are the only hope of getting back into space and permanently this time." Frijole (talk) 21:30, 10 September 2013 (UTC)

How can one be a FORMER eBay founder? Once you've done something, such as founding a company, you always will have done it. 19:20, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

It's January 2015 and somewhere in Los Angeles, the Tyrell Corporation are developing the Replicants that die in 2019. Sometime in the next four years someone is going to be off the shoulder of Orion. I have no idea what the hell this comic is alluding. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:18, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Why the ch*rp isn't this comic in Category:Space? 16:23, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

Done... --Dgbrt (talk) 18:27, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

Basketball is a peaceful planet, we have no weapons -- Hardware Wars. Mountain Hikes (talk) 03:40, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

There is no living possible on Basketball. All the irregular shaking, rotating, bouncing off a gray giant planet won't let the catastrophes end for quite some time. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I wonder if the "faking" comment has a second layer of meaning as in faking an orgasm? 17:12, 15 September 2019 (UTC)