The potential energy of masses:
R is the separation of the masses.
Law of conservation of energy:
, where Wnc is the work done by non-conservative forces such as gravity.
Energy of a Spacecraft
Very far from earth (at R = ∞), a spacecraft has run out of fuel and its kinetic energy is zero. If only the gravitational force of the earth were to act on it (i.e., neglect the forces from the sun and other solar system objects), the spacecraft would eventually crash into theearth. The mass of the earth is Me and its radius is Re. Neglect air resistance throughout this problem, since the spacecraft is primarily moving through the near-vacuum of space.
Part A. Find the speed se of the spacecraft when it crashes into the earth. Express the speed in terms of Me, Re, and the universal gravitational constant G.
Part B. Now find the spacecraft's speed when its distance from the center of the earth is R = αRe where α ≥ 1. Express the speed in terms of se and α.
Frequently Asked Questions
What scientific concept do you need to know in order to solve this problem?
Our tutors have indicated that to solve this problem you will need to apply the Gravitational Potential Energy for Systems of Masses concept. You can view video lessons to learn Gravitational Potential Energy for Systems of Masses. Or if you need more Gravitational Potential Energy for Systems of Masses practice, you can also practice Gravitational Potential Energy for Systems of Masses practice problems.
What professor is this problem relevant for?
Based on our data, we think this problem is relevant for Professor Staff's class at OSU.