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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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== Latest comic ==
== Latest comic ==

Revision as of 13:28, 12 October 2012

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki! We already have 11 comic explanations!

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My life goal is to launch a barge into the air and have it land on one of Elon Musk's rockets.
Title text: My life goal is to launch a barge into the air and have it land on one of Elon Musk's rockets.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Links to video of successful landing in barge and maybe also failed to show what this hobby may result in. Also if there are videos of this newest success

This is another one of the "My Hobby" series, where Randall tells about a strange hobby. This is probably the most destructive one so far, as it would result in the loss of nine space rocket engines. It would also likely be the most expensive even disregarding the costs to others, due to the costs associated with buying and damaging a barge specifically for a prank (though it could potentially be reused).

The launch company SpaceX is currently testing a reusable rocket system, where the first rocket stage is capable of landing back on an autonomous spaceport drone ship after launch. The rockets guide themselves in to land by aiming towards a giant launch pad with the "X" from the SpaceX logo painted on it. Randall imagines creating a similar-looking barge and placing it near the intended landing site, except his barge's platform would be hollow in the middle with only a sheet of paper supporting the part where the rocket would land. Presumably the goal of this setup would be to trick a rocket into falling into the sea, similar to the old trapping pit. If a rocket attempts to land on Randall's barge, it will quickly burn through the paper (assuming the paper had not already been destroyed from being soaked by ocean spray) and, not having enough time or fuel to readjust its course, fall into the sea. Luckily for Elon Musk (but unluckily for anyone planning this prank), SpaceX rockets will not land on any old barge [citation needed], unless perhaps something happened to the intended barge.

This hobby seems more appropriate for Black Hat, considering that he is a real classhole.

The title text plays on the incredible difficulty of successfully landing a rocket on a barge.  Such a feat has only recently become possible, some 60 years after the launch of Sputnik 1. Randall imagines an even more implausible idea of launching an entire barge into the air and have it land on the rocket. Launching a barge in the first place would be tremendously difficult - they are big, heavy and not very aerodynamic [[1]]. Having one come down on top of a rocket would likely destroy the rocket as well - but it would be worth it for the spectacular explosion.

This comic was published on the week following SpaceX's Iridium 1 mission, where the first stage of the rocket which delivered 10 satellites into orbit successfully landed on a barge near California. It marked the seventh time SpaceX successfully landed and recovered its booster on a commercial mission.


[There are one panel in this comic with the main drawing at the bottom. Two smaller drawings are inserted above this drawing to explain the idea.]
[The first insert shows a barge with no center and a large piece of paper with the SpaceX logo above the barge.]
[The second insert shows the paper stretched over the hole.]
[The main drawing at the bottom shows a cross-section of the barge in water, showing there is only water below the paper. Above the paper the large first stage, without the top part with the payload, of a reusable rocket is attempting to land on the paper on the SapceX logo (not visible in this view). It is still so high above the fake barge that the exhaust fire below the rocket is nowhere near the paper.]
[Caption below the panels:]
My hobby: Hollowing out the center of a barge, stretching paper over the hole painted with the SpaceX logo, and leaving it floating offshore near launch sites.

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