Can We Turn Earth Into a Spaceship? | The Wandering Earth

– Beautiful isn’t it? The only home we’ve ever known. But what if the only way to save the Earth was to push it somewhere else? Could we do that? Let’s get technical. It is freezing out here. (upbeat music) Life, as we know it, depends
on two million septillion kilograms of mostly hydrogen and helium that forms an almost perfect sphere that we humans call the sun. And because we are so
dependent on the suns energy, life on Earth has a time limit. In a little over seven billion years, the sun will have burned
through enough of its hydrogen and helium fuel that it’ll move into another stage of its
life, the red giant stage, and expand so much so that the Earth and all the inner planets will be consumed by just its radius. And that, as they say, will be that. How could we escape such a scorching fate? Well that is the central
question in the novella and recent Chinese blockbuster,
“The Wandering Earth”. And that story’s solution is to construct thousands of rockets
taller than Mount Everest and just push Earth to
another solar system. This would get us out of
the way of a red giant, but is this even close to feasible? What kind of engineering would this take? Could we make a spaceship Earth? Let’s begin with the (humming), let’s begin with a simple case. Using rockets to fling the
Earth out of the solar system. The Earth goes around the sun more or less in a circle because we are
gravitationally bound to it. To change where or how the
Earth was orbiting then, something would have to fight against this constant gravitational force and add energy to the entire system. We are now describing
gravitational potential energy and the more we wanted to
move something like a planet through a gravitational field away from a gravitational influence,
like giving it a larger orbit, the more energy we would have to put in. But just how much energy
would we have to put into the Earth’s orbit in order to fling it out of the solar system? Well, if we gave the Earth
enough kinetic energy to equal or exceed the
gravitational influence of what it’s bound to
the sun, by say changing its velocity, it’s orbit
won’t just increase and get larger, it will
just fly off into the cosmos never to return, always slowing down, but never falling all the way back into the suns gravity well. So let’s set gravitational
potential energy and kinetic energy equal to
each other and do the math. We know the mass of the
Earth, the mass of the sun, how far the Earth and sun
are apart from each other, and we know Newton’s
gravitational constant. So if we solve for V here, we
can get the escape velocity from an Earth-like orbit. Do this and you get an
escape velocity for Earth from the sun of 42 kilometers per second, an absolutely blistering
speed that could take you, for example, from New York to Los Angeles in just 95 seconds. The good thing though,
is that we do not need to get Earth moving at this ludacris speed because we’re already moving
at an absolutely crazy clip. Do you feel like you’re moving right now? Well probably not, but
you’ve always been moving. Since you were born every
single molecule of you has been absolutely racing around the sun. And because of this, you’ve never felt it. Earth’s orbital velocity
is already a substantial 30 kilometers per second around the sun. And so if we wanted to push
Earth out of the solar system all at once, we wouldn’t
have to add 42 kilometers per second, we’d only have
to add the difference, around 12, and then Earth would be on its way to Alpha Centauri. However, because the plan
in “The Wandering Earth” specifically, an understandable plan, is to slowly push the Earth
out of the solar system over the course of
decades, we need to change the Earth’s velocity by a lot more than 12 kilometers per second. In a slow, constant
spiraling outwards burn for example, where the sun
is always pulling on you the entire time, you
need to instead exchange all of this orbital
velocity and kinetic energy for potential energy. You are spiraling outwards
getting further and further away from the sun, slowing
down, down, down, down until you escape the
suns influence with zero, or there about zero, kilometers per second and you have no orbital velocity because you are no longer orbiting. However we actually accomplish
this, this all means that we would need to cancel
out a full 30 kilometers per second of ancient orbital velocity to escape the suns influence. Kind of like slowly getting
off a cosmic merry go round when it’s slow enough
and safe enough to do so. And doing all of this
would be the greatest feat of engineering ever attempted. In 2006 we launched the
New Horizon’s space probe with a velocity that would take
it out of the solar system, so we have done this kind of thing before. The problem with doing it with Earth is Earth is so dang heavy. The Earth is obviously
huge relative to us, but just think about for
a second how much of Earth do we actually interact with? All of the forests, all of the oceans, every living thing you’ve ever seen, all of human civilization,
all of the human experience has existed in a volume
of Earth that is less than 1% of the whole. If we had to move the Earth
to another solar system and we wanted to maintain some semblance of life as we know it,
we couldn’t just move 1% that is the biofilm that we call life. We would have to move 100% of Earth to maintain the biosphere, the geology, the magnetosphere, our
gravity, everything. 100% of Earth is six
trillion trillion kilograms, six with 24 dang zeroes after it. And if wanted to move all
of this with some relative speed in some time frame,
we would have to provide a lot of thrust, which would
have to come from our rockets. Back in the envelope
though, using a simple force equals mass times
acceleration equation, the mass of Earth and the
orbital velocity we have to cancel out, along with the time frame, let’s say something like 15
years like “The Wandering Earth” uses, we get a thrust value that has 20 zeroes after it, that’s a lot. So now we have to look up
how our rockets stack up. Slow burn baby, slow. Now, the simplest way
to, ope, still thrusting. There we go, the simplest,
most straight forward approach to turn Earth into a spaceship would be to first stop the
rotation of the planet, which would cause a
natural disaster unlike we’ve ever seen before, but
let’s ignore that for a second, pick one hemisphere of
earth because we want the thrust point in one direction for pretty much the entire time, and then dot as much of that hemisphere as we can with rockets. These rockets would have
to be engineering marvels like the world has never seen. And to get an idea of just how much thrust each one would produce, let’s look to “The Wandering Earth” again
and say we use 10,000 rockets. If all of our Earth
engines needed to add up to our total estimated
thrust, then every single one of them would have to produce 37, wait, wait, wait a second. Thousand trillion
newtons of thrust, crazy. And if we choose a pretty
beefy boy in terms of thrust like the Raptor engine from SpaceX, you can see that even though it produces a lot of thrust, it
would still take billions of Raptor engines just to equal one of our Earth moving engines. And all of these engines
would take up a lot of space. (dramatic music) Let’s assume that because our scenario is a literal doomsday
scenario, we as humans are willing to put as many
rockets as we can possibly fit on one half, or one hemisphere of Earth. How much construction,
looking at this map, do you think we’d need to do? I have indicated here with a single dot a surface area required for a number of SpaceX Raptor engines. Not any of the infrastructure
we would probably have to build around them,
just the thrusty bits. Looking at this dot, how many other dots do you think we would
have to draw on this map? Take a second to guess, I will wait. I will give you a hint,
it’s not this many dots. It’s this many. Using current technology,
the number of rockets that we would need to slowly
push out of the solar system would literally cover every square inch of one half of Earth. Every square centimeter of ocean, every square meter of land, everything. Our wandering Earth
then would have to look something like this, which
is objectively super awesome, but shall we say totally
and completely implausible. I think we need to go sci-fi. We would have to cover literally
half the planet in rockets. So I don’t think chemical
propulsion is the way to go. So what about nuclear fusion? Oh, that’s where that was. To it’s credit, “The Wandering
Earth” doesn’t suggest that regular old chemical
rockets are the solution to the Earth moving
problem, instead saying that they use giant
nuclear fusion engines, taller than Mount Everest
as their Earth pushers. And this makes everything
a bit more believable because one of the
advantages of a theoretical nuclear fusion rocket is the speed at which they can throw
fuel into the void. However, even if fusion engines
could turn Earth’s crust directly into fuel through
the fusion process, even if all of these
fusion engines could fit on one half of Earth, and
even if they could provide the required thrust in total, fuel would still be a big problem. This may be the most famous equation in all of rocket science. The very cleverly named Rocket Equation. It is able to take what we want to change, in terms of velocity for our space craft and relate that to the
exhaust velocity coming out of that spacecraft and how much mass we started off with and how
much mass we finally end with. This change in mass is
how much fuel we need. If we now give our nuclear fusion rockets an absolutely ridiculous exhaust velocity thanks to the millions
of degrees plasma created in these fusion reactions, then we can use our change velocity we wanna give to Earth to solve for what percentage of Earth we want to use as fuel. To move our spacecraft
out of the solar system under all of our assumptions,
we would only need to use .3% of its total mass in terms of fuel, but remember that our spacecraft is Earth. Let’s remember that
everything you know and love accounts for less than
1% of Earth’s total mass. So in that context, this
.3% number is more like 30% of everything you’ve ever seen. To power these futuristic
nuclear fusion reactors, yes we would only need to use
.3% of Earth’s total mass, but not all of Earth’s total mass is readily available to us. So we would need to throw
into these fusion reactors the equivalent of 13 times the mass of all the world’s oceans combined. Even if we could make reactors like this and move Earth with them,
we might not have the fuel to supply them or the ability to. And we don’t even have
fusion engines right now nor do they seem to be on
the technological horizon. Using current technology
like SpaceX Raptor engines and the rocket equation, we
could calculate that we would eventually have to throw the
equivalent mass into space from our spaceship, which
is Earth, of 98.98%, and if we had to do
that, just to push Earth out of the solar system,
just .02% would remain, meaning that everything, eventually, all the animals, all of
humanity, civilization, plants, geology, everything,
would have to fit on a spaceship Earth the
size of a large asteroid. Because we’d have to use
the majority of Earth’s mass as fuel, just a few years after launching spaceship Earth towards Alpha Centauri, we would run out of space
for pretty much everything. The rockets, the animals,
the plants, the food, us, I don’t know if we wanna
make a spaceship Earth. So could we turn the
Earth into a spaceship to escape a dying sun? Well, using today’s technology,
we would have to make trillions of our best rockets
and then move everything on one hemisphere of Earth
in terms of resources to one side, and then dot
that entire other side with rockets, literally
every square centimeter, and then use so much of Earth as fuel that by the time we got
to where we were going, we would be reduced to the
size of not a planet anymore. Obviously all of this
is totally improbable, if not completely impossible. Using fusion engines would
make everything easier, but space and fuel would
still be a problem. For now, the only trip that
the Earth will be taking around a star is another one around the sun, because science. I’m taking this. (upbeat music) And I should say there’s
a lot of other ways that you can approach
this kind of calculation. You can change the trajectory,
you can change the engines or orientation, the power requirements, but what I will say is that basically any combination of
variables that you pick, it still is completely implausible to do. Either it would take you,
with current day technology like millions or billions
of years to leave the solar system and then
it’s gonna be too late and you’re gonna be engulfed by the sun, or the power requirement
is so crazy for you to launch yourself out of the solar system like New Horizons that it’s just something we probably won’t ever create
in terms of engineering. So that’s, that doesn’t work so much. But “The Wandering Earth”
does get a lot right from having to slow down
and stop the rotation of the Earth, and population
die-offs and all that stuff. It’s pretty fun and I
appreciate the science in it. Thank you so much for watching today and a huge thank you Doctor Ethan Segall and Matter Bean for their
help on this episode. If you enjoyed this episode
of “Because Science” about spacey stuff, you
can check out some of the other videos that we’ve done like what would happen if you
actually pulled the moon to Earth like in Majoras Mask,
and why you definitely why you do not want Superman to reverse the Earth’s rotation. You can follow us @BecauseScience here on these social media platforms
where I take suggestions for future episodes, and hey, thanks. (upbeat music)

Comments 100

  • Thanks for watching Super Nerds! It turns out that orbital mechanics is really hard when you haven't really studied it. Who knew! See you in Footnotes — kH

  • You left out the AntiMatter rocket engine.

  • Necrons want to know your location

  • Aaalso, what about the moon? We kinda do need that thing too to survive…

  • please, polisch subtitels! thank you.

  • Spaceship Earth – hollow moon × asteroid = escape vehicle

  • This guy reminds me the guy from film “2012”

  • anyone else pause the video to go to Netflix and watch The Wandering Earth then come back and finish the video?

  • "We should take bikini bottom and PUSHIT SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!"

  • space colonies or spacearks seem more reasonable by comparison….

  • Then how on earth did starwars move star killer base?


  • 6 septillion kg, holy earth. that's a lot to move.

  • I’m on board with this as long as we have seven nation army blasting in our atmosphere as we arrive

  • We could just ask Patrick Star to push it somewhere else for us

  • my idea and your idea same

  • Even if you could, how are you going to slow down once you get there?

    I don't need science to tell me this is highly improbable, just common sense

  • 1st stopping the eaths rotation could be done over years and then we would need heeting/cooling for both sides of the earth

    2nd what if we used the slingshot maneuver to get out of the solar system using the gravity of the sun to pull us closer and closer and then using a comtrolled blast to fly off into space

    3rd if we were using the earth as fuel then that would mean our mass would become smaller and smaller meaning the thrust we would need would follow the same by decreasing also meaning the fuel we would need would also decrease and thinking of the fusion engines as perfect fusion engines that would mean once we no longer need the thrust of one engine we could use it as fuel for the other engines

    4th the cooling of the planet could also be somewhat solved if humams were to migrate near the thrusters and use the residual heat from them to survive (sadly most plants wouldnt survive but we would have to make due)

    5th water… Im kind of stumped on that one, once we take away enough of the earths mass the water will most likley flow towards the earth therein being used as fuel unintentionally therfore depleating our water over time

    (Im going to stop that here)

  • cant talk about flat earth but this SHIT is allowed . WTF

  • What if we sacrifice the moon?

  • Just gather the Dragon Balls guys!!! Easy, job done 👍

  • What about super volcanoes could they be used as a rocket or rather could super volcanos change the rotation of a planet

  • Can we do it?
    Not yet but maybe
    for how long?
    Probably for the rest of the lives of those who do it lol

  • What if they are powered with antimatter, i guess that would do, with less rockets..

  • " Gonna need a better host." :-/

  • ok wow 7 billion years… till then we have already distroid ourselves

  • do a video on dyson spheres thats something we could use right now rather then in billions of years

  • How could it slow down?

  • We should take Earth and push it somewhere else!

  • Hey if Diebuster did it. You just need a giant robot.

  • Let's not ignore the fact you'd be cooking half the atmosphere while running half a planet worth of engines, which would basically carry that heat over to the other half as it tries to equalize. Heard you like your Earth extra crispy?

  • How about the moon? Could we do that, could we make it livable for the entire human population and move it the way you want d to move earth in this video?

  • I kinda wish more people would refer to the sun by it's proper name: Sol
    Same goes for the moon: Luna.

  • Bad news. The concept that Stars are Thermo-Nuclear powerhouses, has just been blown out of the water. A high-tech engineering company has just revealed the results of 5 years of secret testing with Mind Boggling discoveries that has turned Space Science on its head. Stars are now proven to be externally powered by the huge Birkland electrical currents that flow through the Universe. (proving the Electric Universe concept). The tests have already pointed the way to a method to "turn off" Nuclear radiation, so we will be able to clean up all the radio-active waste of Nuclear Power stations. Design work has already begun on a new type of radiation free Nuclear Reactor for clean energy more efficient than daft solar panels and ugly wind generators. The tests and discoveries also mean that Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Expanding Universes and the religiously motivated Big Bang Theory are all finally put to bed as nonsense !!! For technical details see: "SAFIRE and the future of Science Parts 1 and 2" here on You Tube, presented by the Australian Physicist Wal Thornhill.

  • Xi Jinping rejects this

  • Great video… question though… also spoiler alert.

    In the movie the big problem they run into is the earth being pulled to close to… Jupiter i believe… and therefore be destroyed by the gravity well… this is caused by a sudden change in the gravity of Jupiter while the earth is coming in for a close pass to get a gravity assist… is it possible for a gravity shift like the one in the movie? Also what about the gravitational forces on the inhabitants of a wondering earth… how would that be affected?

  • This is Awesome !!!

  • Today: “We did surgery on a grape.”
    3000: “We turned Africa into a jet engine!”

  • Not to mention the fuel would need to be outed into space otherwise before anything it'd destroy the atmosphere. Which once moved the magnetic field would change an the gravity from bother the moon and the sun would hold no tides and we'd lose the atmosphere anyways. So even if we could theoretically move the Earth we would also have to create a gravitaional device for tides, thr atmosphere would have to be replicated, and heat and light from which the sun could no longer provide.

  • The tectonic plate that would sustain the engine would break and the engine would melt in lava …

  • I imagined tapping into the Earth's core and creating a special engine that uses magnetic/ gravitational thrust and is completely sustainable so it could be done essentially forever, and would be able to generate plenty of force needed to move Earth. Possibly by blocking out the gravity of the Sun.

    This kind if technology isn't quite pure imagination, but is definitely beyond any current human capabilities, but it is fun to think about.

    I wonder about an alternate approach involving making a small Black Hole to assist in knocking the Earth out of Orbit. This is totally do-able, but is it practical? No! Lol Again, not with our current level of technology, but also again, fun to think about.

  • Could the Moon be turned into a spaceship as proposed in the TV show Space 1999?

  • Lol I was waiting for the explanation where we would no longer have an atmosphere and no primary source of energy [star], but it never came…

  • well obviously you would eat the other planets as fuel on your way by. if you only need one earth size chunk you should be alight just eating other planets

  • Simple: Send out constant missions to asteroid mine for more fuel

  • A few points, we didn’t talk about using the moon as resources. There’s always the possibility of using gravity by placing a large object on the other side of the earth pulling us out of orbit. Also you don’t really need to leave the solar system you just need to escape the dying suns heat. Also by the time will the sun‘s mass be slightly less? But yes it’s still probably impossible.

  • very very nice

  • Death star 2.0?

  • we would have to have another solar system as our destination and it would have to be very far away as to not be effected by the destruction of our old sun

  • Couldn't we use other sources for fuel like the moon or a gas planet

  • Earth Problems:
    Plastic, Population, Smoke Pollution,
    Not Taking Care Of Rain Forest.
    Terraforming Project of Planets.

  • How about instead of rockets, would a solar sail work? I mean, it would be massive, but would it be feasible?

  • Okay but what about gas giant colony ships like in Schlock Mercenary

  • 269 people from Australia like you video!

  • nerdiest thor ever

  • why only 3% of light speed for the ejecta? Can't you take the energy output from a reactor, accelerate it LHC style to 50% C and chuck it off the earth, you can then use different fuel from the matter you're ejecting. While rockets might work giving earth solar sails might be better, the sails would be pushed on by the light accelerating us from the sun and the energy collected by capturing the light could be turned to accelerating ejecta to speed up the process. and the huge area of the sails would allow earth to stay at a comfy temperature for a little while although not all the way to another star.

  • It works for the movie because its a movie….but in real life,the whole concept is totally nuts!!!!!

  • Not to mention the whole planet would freeze on the way.

  • First of all, I don't believe the sun CAN even get so big. But if it really can, that's CRAZY.
    Also, there's not enough fuel it have to be nuklear.

  • Also, if gravitational pull is determined by the mass of an object, if the sun grew in density, so would it's pull. How would we account for our GPE if the sun gravity is literally chasing us and getting stronger as it gets bigger???

  • Simple… We're 7 billion. Make everyone jump for more than a billion times at the same time.

  • It's simple, change the gravitational constant of the universe!
    – Q

  • Sun: Expands and eats Mercury and Venus
    Earth: alright, imma head out…

  • After re-watching this bit:
    It looks like the earth moves about one diameter worth in a minute which is about 200km/s. So does that mean that we could use a Death Star laser to create a wandering earth?

  • it doesnt matter if climate change gets to it first

  • Let’s not forget also being impossible we would immediately begin to die without the sun 😂 over time. Can’t be to close can’t be pass mars without freezing

  • Well holy f**k…. Nice idea, well explained, not happening anytime soon! Thanks for thinking about this all the same! Instantly it was always going to be a problem regarding us moving further and further away from the sun and its energy and everything dying due to this, let alone the many other issues. Always good to have ideas and think them through though, especially crazy ones!

  • I thought he was tom hemsworth

  • One major thing I kept thinking of when he kept saying chemical or fusion thrust we may not be able to achieve this in our near future but would we really want to and yes I understand that in a life threatening scenario such as our whole planet being destroyed would make it where e would want to stop this event but the earth is in the habitable part of the solar system we are on the correct distance from the Sun to be able to support life this is if we get too close to the sun we will burn up and if we got too far we would freeze in this scenario that this is scenario the sun would be growing ready to go supernova this would likely increase the habitable zone but yet if we got out of the zone to survive as planet we would still die due to the fact of us freezing to death

  • this is the a phenomenal movie watched on thai airways go check it out now
    i aint kidding, NOW

  • Why don't you use solar winds to push the earth? All you would need is a few large rockets on the sides to stop rotation & massive solar panels/sails to get the energy needed to push it. But I don't know if you would get the speed needed and would have to start around most likely now

  • We need to get out because Vogons

  • The sheer amount of money, time and resources they used to move the earth… lmao… you could build so many fucking ships.

  • The annihilatrix comes to mind lol

  • I have the answer, without ever having seen the video: NO. You can not turn the Earth into a spaceship. No. There. No need to see this video, I've told you. Fucking stupid. No. Don't even have to see the vid. Because the answer is no.

  • We should dig the Earth AND PUSH IT SOMEWHERE ELSE!
    Edit: That idea, may just be crazy enough….TO GET US ALL KILLED!!!!

  • What would happen if we could turn rocks into fuel and use the moon as fuel

  • In a billion year we will forget about earth and traveling through galaxies, stars, and planets

  • And the temperature. Wouldn't we freeze if we got too far away from the sun?

  • Moving a planet will never happen, but using AI to automate the disassembly of the planet and making a dyson sphere is far more likely, since we do have the time to do that and moving a planet away from a super battery would be the dumbest move we have ever made.

  • And this Ladies and Gentlemen is why we all should just go to another planet after we Wreck it Ralph this one.🌎🌍🌏👌.

  • bro just mine mars

  • solar sail.

  • I think what we need to do is propagate life throughout the solar system and possibly the galaxy, then accept that life is like a kid, born on earth, destined to go away,,and earth will eventually die.

    Then again, it might be more plausible to keep the sun young…otherwise we'd have to pull a planetary entanglement drive type thing, to get away from the sun…and jump to tau ceti or something.

  • Honestly, this video makes it more convincing not less. With the caveat of those insane nuclear engine speeds that 0.3% total mass of the Earth number is way better than I was expecting. Yes, we only have access currently to 1% of the Earth at the moment but like, if we are building mountain-sized engines I don't see why we wouldn't be able to overcome the engineering difficulties of pumping liquid rock directly from the mantle instead of using crust material. Heck, imagine just slapping one of your engines overtop a volcano which is already basically a hole to the mantle (I'm a chemist, not a geologist don't quote me on this.) 0.003 reduction in volume would probably be a manageable surface area loss since the earth is huge something like 2% which is a lot, but probably a similar sacrifice to building the rockets in the first place. Actually, now that I think about it we might actually GAIN useable landmass since the tectonic plates splitting under the oceans would start shrinking together instead, creating new mountain ranges and maybe even new continents. (again not a geologist)

  • That single dot is basically Bermuda

  • It's easier to start with moon.

  • Wouldn't the sun be lighter in billions of years?

  • In a perfect world this would be top kidsshow

  • outer space is not the star trek version

  • I read somewhere that the entire population of earth could fit in a 100000 by 100000 square box so would it not be easier to just build a giant ship and move to a different planet. ( I could be wrong about the size )

  • Ok, and could there be other methods to achieve the same goal, realistically?

    NOTE: That doesn't include "Build a spaceship and go", but that could include "dissamble earth and rebuild it somewhere else".

  • easiest solution: sun grows
    earth: beep beep beep beep ok we safe

  • Interesting video but one thing he didn't mention is that if you actually did somehow manage to move the earth out of the solar system it would be freaking cold. So you would also need a whole lot of fuel to keep the planet warm enough to sustain life for the length of time it would be traveling before it reached another star system, which I'm sure would be a long, long time.

  • How about changing the albedo of the Earth and using it as a solar sail 🤔

  • It already was and is a spaceship

  • Maybe we could use the magnetic field to propel earth by building thrusters on the lay lines. …like the pyramids….huh maybe I just solved the question why the pyramids were made.

  • My question: what happens to the earth's core in this scenario? Wouldn't forcing the rotation of the earth to stop also effect the fluid dynamics happening in the core? If so how would that effect everything we depend on, even the magnetic field generated by the movement of core and mantle material?

  • The big BUT here is that we would need to accelerate the spent fuel to earths escape velocity instantly. I think we’d be better of just building spaceships.

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