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How Insanely Fast the ISS Moves, Visualized

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The International Space Station orbits the Earth at 8 kilometers per second—but it's tough to visualize just how fast that is. When you think about it in terms of how far the thing moves during the course of a song you know, though, you'll be shocked.

In today's What If? post, Randall Munroe takes a look at exactly how fast the ISS travels. He gives two examples. The first is striking:

The ISS moves so quickly that if you fired a rifle bullet from one end of a football field, the International Space Station could cross the length of the field before the bullet traveled 10 yards.


But my favorite is how he visualizes the distance travelled while listening to I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. He explains how far you'd travel to it while moving at 8km/s:

That song is about 131.9 beats per minute, so imagine that with every beat of the song, you move forward more than two miles. In the time it took to sing the first line of the chorus, you could walk from the Bronx all the way to the Statue of Liberty. It would take you about two lines of the chorus (16 beats of the song) to cross the English Channel between London and France.


Listen to the whole song, and you'd have travelled 1,000 miles. That is fast. [What If?]