10/03/2013 11:20 am ET | Updated Dec 02, 2013

Is It Feasible to Hover in the Atmosphere, Wait for the Earth to Rotate, and Then Land Somewhere Instead of Flying There?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Robert Frost, Instructor at NASA; responsible for training astronauts and flight controllers for the International Space Station (ISS)


You are coupled to the reference frame of the Earth. While on the surface your velocity relative to the Earth is zero. If you start to levitate above the ground you are still attached to the reference frame of the Earth and will hover over the same spot on the ground.

It's no different than riding in an airplane, standing in the aisle and jumping in the air and assuming that you'll stop traveling at the 550 mph the airplane is flying.

If you want to separate yourself from the Earth's reference frame, you would have to decelerate yourself by about 1000 miles per hour (at the equator) and you would have to compensate for the forces that would come from the atmosphere slamming into you at 1000 miles per hour, because it too is attached to the Earth's reference frame. This would take a lot of energy. It's easier to just fly there.

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