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Homework Help: Momentum Question

  1. Sep 30, 2008 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    As its coming back to earth from orbit, the space shuttle enters the atmosphere travelling at a speed of roughly 8000 m/s. Just before it lands, its speed has already decreased to about 100 m/s. The gravitational potential energy of the earth-shuttle system has also decreased. Where does all of the shuttle's momentum go?

    2. Relevant equations

    There is no equations but knowledge of the spring theory

    3. The attempt at a solution

    The spring theory is responsible for the loss of momentum. The surface molecules act like spring and turn the kinetic energy into thermal energy through friction causing the shuttle to slow down.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2008 #2
    I would like to know if I am going in the correct direction with this or not. . .I don't understand why other questions posted after mine are already answered but my question isn't . . . . what more must I do????
  4. Sep 30, 2008 #3


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    Homework Helper

    Well it would seem that you have grasped the concept of kinetic energy being converted into other forms.
    As for the momentum, I would say that the thermal energy heats up the surrounding molecules so they begin to move faster too (conservation of momentum must be conserved), and through friction, the opposing air molecules are being forced downwards.

    This is all I can think of for the momentum of the space shuttle, there could be more and my answer might not be completely correct, so please don't accept it as fact.
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