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What would happen if you went into space and shot a bullet toward Earth?
Question Date: 2015-09-18
Answer 1:

Well, to be in space you most likely will need to be orbiting the earth, and this turns out to be a very important part of the answer.

As you shoot the bullet, it travels about 2,000 miles per hour away from you, towards the earth. But, to be in orbit, you are already moving 17,000 miles per hour around the earth.

If you shot the bullet straight down at the earth below you, the total speed of the bullet would be around 17,117 miles per hour. Not much faster than before you shot the bullet.

Going this fast most of the bullet will most likely burn up in the atmosphere. Any part of it that doesn't burn up will be traveling at the bullets terminal velocity, a measly 31 miles per hour, three times slower than a professional baseball pitcher can throw.

Answer 2:

That depends on whether you are in orbit around the Earth or not. If you are in orbit, then you are also moving over the Earth's surface, just as you are when flying an airplane. The bullet would not go straight down, since it would have the forward motion of your orbit in addition to the downward motion of being fired. Depending on how high you are orbiting, the bullet might not even hit the Earth, and in fact create a new orbit.

If you weren't in orbit, then the bullet would just go downwards. Either way, something as small as a bullet entering through Earth's atmosphere would probably burn up before it reached the surface.

Answer 3:

The path of the bullet would depend on the direction the rifle was aimed. If aimed directly to the center of the Earth for example it would simply plunge into the Earth. If it was aimed at right angles to a line connecting Earth’s center and the rifle, then the orbit would depend on the initial velocity that is the bullet’s exit speed. If fast enough, the bullet could go into a circular or elliptical closed orbit around Earth.

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