1074: Moon Landing
The comment to which Cueball is referring is a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and science communicator. As of this comic, Tyson is the "Frederick P. Rose Director" (a special honorary title) of the Hayden Planetarium. He has appeared on many different shows, ranging from The Discovery Channel to The Big Bang Theory.
There are a number of conspiracy theories claiming that the moon landing was a hoax. Tyson offers a pretty compelling argument against them, but Megan presents an even more convincing refutation, snarkily implying that NASA really hasn't done anything spectacular since 1969.
And Cueball responds with a pun on the word "burn". Burn can mean a particularly effective insult, or it can mean the consumption of fuel for propulsion. In this case, the "burn" was so effective it pushed the spaceship out of orbit (which usually takes a very large amount of burning, depending on the gravity of the planet or moon).
- The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004. Opportunity has been working for over ten years on the surface of Mars; Spirit got stuck in 2009 and shut down for good in 2010. See this comic: 695: Spirit.
- Kepler found many exoplanets.
- New Horizons is a mission to the dwarf planet Pluto and beyond. It did a flyby of Pluto in July 2015 and is on its way out of the solar system.
- Cassini was a probe orbiting Saturn from 2004 until its controlled entry into Saturn in 2017.
- Curiosity is another, larger Mars rover, exploring the Martian surface since August 2012.
- TiME is a proposed mission to explore the oceans of Saturn's moon Titan.
- Project M is an idea to send human-like robots to the Moon.
The final sentence of title text notes that all manned missions since the Moon landings have taken place in low-earth orbit, which is barely far off of the Earth's surface. If the Earth were scaled to the size of a regulation basketball, approximately 24 cm (9¼ inches) in diameter, those manned missions would have all taken place within 1.25 cm (½ inch) of the ball's surface. At this scale the Moon would be at a distance of 7.7 m (25.3 ft). Unmanned missions, such as those named above or the Voyager and Mariner probes of the 1960s and 1970s, have travelled much further.
- [Cueball is sitting at a table with a laptop open. His hands are on the keys.]
- Cueball: Hah- Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a great reply to people who doubt astronauts went to the moon.
- Voice off-screen: Oh?
- Cueball: "Atop 3,000 tons of rocket fuel, where else do you think they were headed?"
- [The voice off screen turns out to be Megan. She is depicted, and now Cueball is off-screen.]
- Megan: Cute. But it overlooks an even simpler argument.
- Cueball: Which is?
- [Both Megan and Cueball are now visible. Cueball has turned his chair around to face her.]
- Megan: If NASA were willing to fake great accomplishments, they'd have a second one by now.
- Cueball: Ouch.
- Megan: ...Too mean?
- Cueball: That burn was so harsh I think you deorbited.
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