1074: Moon Landing

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 10:49, 7 June 2015 by (talk) (Explanation: found the source, added the link to the tweet, cleaned up my mess.)
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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.


The comment to which Cueball is referring is a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and science communicator. As of this comic, Tyson 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).

In the title text Randall mentions many successful NASA unmanned missions:

  • The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Opportunity is working for over ten years on the Mars surface while Spirit is out of order. See this comic: 695: Spirit.
  • Kepler did find many unknown exoplanets
  • New Horizons is a mission to the dwarf planet Pluto and beyond. It's scheduled to arrive at Pluto by mid 2015.
  • Cassini is a probe orbiting Saturn since 2004.
  • Curiosity is an other Mars rover at the size of a small car, exploring the Mars surface since August 2012.
  • TiME is a proposed mission to explore the oceans of Saturn's moon Titan.
  • Project M is an idea to send human like robots to the 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 (9¼ inches) in diameter, those manned missions would have all taken place within 1.25 cm (½ 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 travelled 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.

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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)
Also, he didn't found eBay, he founded PayPal! -- The Cat Lady (talk) 12:52, 4 September 2021 (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)