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Q: If the Olympics were held on the Moon ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
Category: Science
Asked by: raystas-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 28 Apr 2005 13:03 PDT
Expires: 28 May 2005 13:03 PDT
Question ID: 515501
Taking into account the gravitational difference between the earth and
the moon, what would the current Olympic records be if the athletes
competed on the moon.

Please include competitions such as javelin throwing, high jump, long
jump, shot-put, discus, hammer throw and any others a researcher may
want to look up and calculate.
Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
Answered By: omnivorous-ga on 28 Apr 2005 16:00 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
There is some precedent here, as Alan Shepard hit several golf balls
on the surface of the moon, and reportedly they went a long way. 
After using a six-iron, Shepard reported that his last shot (of 3)
went ?"miles and miles and miles."

Also make sure that you note the javelin in the lunar picture, as
apparently the javelin toss was also performed on this mission:

Carl Koppeshaar??s Astronet Page
?Lunar Golf?

The gravity on the moon is one-sixth that of the earth at 1.622 m/s^2
vs. 9.78 m/s^2 on earth (6.03 times the moon).  So, objects would go
6.03 times farther.  We?re ignoring wind resistance here for objects
like golf balls or a shot ? but we?re ignoring the fact that the
moon?s atmosphere is nil and it would be hard to breath anyway.  Or
that a space suit might be restrictive to the high jump.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a web page with all of
the current records.  We want the track & field records, which are
under ?Athletics? on this page:


Here they are:


High jump (1996) : 2.39 m
Long jump (1968): 8.90 m
Shot Put (1988): 22.47 m
Discus (2004): 69.89 m
Hammer throw (1988): 84.80 m
Javelin (2000): 90.17 m


High jump (1996) : 14.41 m (almost 47?)
Long jump (1968): 53.67 m 
Shot Put (1988): 135.5 m
Discus (2004): 425.4 m
Hammer throw (1988): 511.3 m
Javelin (2000): 543.7 ? more than half a kilometer (and about exactly 1/3 mile)

Google search strategy:
?on the moon? golf ball
Physical statistics from
Search the IOC web page for Olympic records

Best regards,

raystas-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Great Job!!  I'd love to see someone jump 14.41 m.  We only need to
figure out how to add an atmosphere to the moon... ;-)

Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
From: omnivorous-ga on 28 Apr 2005 16:25 PDT
Raystas --

Thanks for your kind words and the extra sum.  I'd never seen the Alan
Shepard story before and though it was priceless.

Best regards,

Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
From: mirrormn-ga on 29 Apr 2005 23:14 PDT
This is a pretty good answer, but having just taken 2 years of AP
Physics courses in high school, it seemed to me like simply
multiplying everything by 6.03 would not be entirely accurate. I
checked the basic projectile equations for distance and height and
they worked out, but then I realized that the initial velocities for
the projectiles would probably not be the same.

For example, when a person attempts a high jump, they bend their knees
and compress, then accelerate their upper bodies upwards. On the moon,
due to the lower gravity, a jumper would be able to give their body
greater acceleration during this jump preparation, so the high jump
record for the moon would undoubtedly be even higher then 14.41m.

If it is assumed a jumper can apply a certain force while jumping, and
that his head is about 1 m lower when he starts jumping than when his
feet leave the ground, then he would need to apply 3.39 times his
weight in force upwards while jumping to reach a height of 2.39 meters
on the earth. On the moon, this same jumper would be able to apply the
same force upwards but against a weaker downwards force, leaving the
ground 1.16 times as fast, and could therefore reach a height of about
19.5 meters. This is in no way an accurate model for a jumper on the
moon; it is only an illustration of how a world-record holding athlete
could potentially perform more than 6.03 times better on the moon.

Summary for those who don't like reading model physics situations - an
athlete  would probably perform more than 6.03 times better on the
moon. In the case modeled above, the theoretical athlete performed
8.16 times better on the moon (19.5 meter high jump).
Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
From: racecar-ga on 01 May 2005 23:26 PDT
That is a good point, mirrormn.  One way to explain it is to imagine 5
other people somehow climbed onto an high jumper's shoulders.  On
earth, if the athlete could even stand (doubtful, with say at least
750 extra pounds) he certainly couldn't jump--his high jump would be
non-existent.  Meanwhile, on the moon, the 5 extra bodies would just
bring his weight back to normal earth weight, and aside from the
awkwardness of 5 people piled on top of him, he should be able to jump
just as high as he can on earth, which is much more than 6.03 * 0.

On the other hand, your assumption that the energy output of the leg
muscles is independent of the load is not valid either.  If the
resistance is too little, you can't supply as much energy, basically
because there is not enough time for the muscles to develop their full
force.  One way to see this is to consider that if an athlete can
throw a shot-put (16 lbs) 22 meters, and he can impart the same energy
to a baseball (5 oz), he would be able to throw the baseball over a
Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 02 May 2005 11:29 PDT
Very good points by all, and since we're overanalyzing the
situation... let's also consider that all of the mentioned events
begin with the athlete running (or atleast moving in circles) and the
speed at which he can run is affected by the gravity as well.  On the
moon, I'd imagine the top speed would be much lower than on earth.

The long jump would be the most hindered by this fact.  But it would
definately negatively effect every one of the mentioned events.
Subject: Re: If the Olympics were held on the Moon
From: stapalhead-ga on 05 May 2005 21:53 PDT
The fact that there is no air resistance would have a HUGE effect on
the results.  Even on Earth, there are adjustments that have to be
made to marks set at altitude in sprints and jumps.  Many of the best
long jump performances have been at Mexico City due to the lower air
resistance (and the lower gravity too).  This would have the same
effect on the hammer and shot on the moon as well, although not as
dramatic as the effect of the jumps.  The discus, however, would be
hurt by the lack of atmosphere, as it actually generates lift.  Discus
throwers are actually aided by a head wind because of the increase in
lift.  So although those are good estimates, the jumps, disc, shot,
and hammer would be better, and the discus would be worse.  (I believe
the jav would be better too, although I'm not entirely sure.)

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