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<   No. 4524   2021-05-27   >

Comic #4524

1 Jane Goodall: Good news! Elon says he can take you into orbit on his next rocket launch.
2 Steve: Crikey! That’s bonza!
3 Terry: Into orbit? That’s a long way from the moon. How is Steve supposed to get the rest of the way?
4 Jane Goodall: He said you can probably get an Uber.

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Technically the moon is also in orbit about the Earth, and so "in orbit" could conceivably refer to a location in the vicinity of the moon. But conventional usage, especially with respect to crewed spaceflight, is that "orbit" most usually refers to low Earth orbit, with a maximum altitude of about 2000 km. Low Earth orbit includes the region of operation of virtually all crewed spaceflight (excepting the Apollo moon missions), including the Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station.

There is also medium Earth orbit ranging from about 2000 km to 35,786 km, the upper range being defined as geosynchronous orbit. The most significant objects in this region are the GPS and related navigation system satellites.

Geosynchronous orbit contains mostly communications satellites. This is the ideal place for them because the orbital period is the same as the rotation period of the Earth, so the satellites maintain station over a specific longitude on Earth.

Above geosynchronous orbit is high Earth orbit. This zone contains very few functional artificial satellites. It is mostly used as a "graveyard" zone for defunct geosynchronous satellites, which are boosted up to higher orbits to get them out of the precious geosynchronous orbit real estate.

The moon orbits at an average altitude of 384,000 km, over ten times the distance of geosynchronous orbit.

So yeah, getting from "orbit" to the moon would be quite the ride. Just using costs for an UberX in my home town of Sydney, the cost would come to approximately:

$2.50 (base fare) + $0.55 (booking fee) + [$1.45 (per km cost) × 384000] + [$0.40 (per minute cost) × (51×60 + 49) (Apollo 11 flight time to lunar orbit)]

Which comes to A$558,046.65.

Bargain! Especially compared to the Apollo program cost of over US$25 billion. But beware of the surge pricing if everyone decides to take an Uber to the moon on a Saturday night.

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