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A space craft's speed due to gravitaitonal force

  1. Nov 9, 2009 #1
    I have this question on a practice test I am using to study. Thanks for any assistance.

    I believe it is a Energy Principle question

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    A spacecraft is coasting towards mars. The mass of Mars is 6.4e^23 kg and its radius is 3400km. When the spacecraft is 7000km from the center of mars, the spacecrafts speed is 3000 m/s. Later, when the spacecraft is 4000 km from the center of mars, what is its speed?

    (i think the following is unimportant, but here it is anyways:)
    Assume that the effects of mars two tiny moons, the other planets, and the sun are negligible. Precision is required to land on mars, so make an accurate calculation, not a rough, approximate calculation. Start from a fundamental principle.

    2. Relevant equations

    Energy Initial = Energy Final + work (both the spacecraft and planet are in the system, so work is 0)

    Kinetic Energy = .5*mass*velocity^2

    Potential energy = -G*mass1*MASS2/radius

    3. The attempt at a solution


    Mc2 cancels
    mc2 cancels
    KM has a near zero change, so it cancels



    Plugging in I get


    The m's (mass of craft) should cancel out on both sides,

    and solving for v i get 95904 m/s

    The key for the practice test (which doesnt give any work) states 4.3e3 m/s
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2009 #2


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    You've got a unit problem because you used m/s for v but km for r. Be sure to use only meters (you can't only use kilometers because 6.7e-11 has units of m^3/(kgs^2).
  4. Nov 9, 2009 #3


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    Also, it's unnecessary to include the rest mass energy or the kinetic energy change of the planet when doing problems like this. Just write Ki+Ui=Kf+Uf and everyone will understand what you mean.
  5. Nov 9, 2009 #4
    sweet. i feel silly for overlooking that

    glad i did that now and not on the test.

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