When we see any size of space rock entering the atmosphere, watching it lit with fire is always fascinating, miraculous even. And if you are anything like me, anything reminds you of food, especially miracles. So I was wondering from what height should the steak be thrown into the atmosphere for it to be edible, needless to say, I was hungry at the time.
Anyway, things entering atmosphere are traveling at high speed; the air resists the speed, gets compressed and rises in temperature. The compressive heating can be experienced at Mach 2.
Let us assume that the drag coefficient of steak is similar to a hockey puck, with negligible difference. Imagine hitting Mach 1, from a drop of 39 Kilometers, like skydiver Felix Baumgartner, where he experienced a few degrees of temperature rise. Due to the air temperature far below freezing point, this rise does not account for much.
The acceleration of the steak will decrease around 30-50 kilometers because the air will resist harder due to thickness it attains through those layers of the atmosphere. So air starts behaving like a lot of people I know, who resist harder due to their thickness. Once the steak has achieved terminal velocity, no matter what height it was dropped from, it will take a good six to seven minutes to reach the earth. The last 25 kilometers, the air temperature happens to be below freezing. The subzero vortex of gushing winds, the steak endures, will freeze the steak. The steak dropped from 39 kilometers cannot break the sound barrier, unlike our friend Felix there.
Let us then take the steak to 50 kilometers and drop it, better yet 70 kilometers which will allow the steak to experience 350°F temperatures, lasting a minute, barely. So make that 100 kilometers, formally the Edge of Space, and the time our steak is spending in our Spatial oven hasn’t increased for more than 30 seconds. One advantage of these hypersonic blasts of wind is the shockwave being created around steak, protecting it from freezing any further. The tumbling style of steak is another factor here since lower speeds are seen to create a flipping tumble. I don’t mean to curse; I meant the Tumble that Flips. However, at hypersonic speeds, the object shrinks due to stress and becomes relatively stable. No scientific evidence to which has been found. It’s probably just the steak reasoning; I mean basic reasoning.
Things start to heat up at 250 kilometers, by things I mean steak. Apparently, the elephant is all I can think about. The drop-point is now the Low Earth orbit, from where the steak lacks the speed it needs to catch fire. The top speed that the steak can now reach is Mach 6, and it will get scorched at this point. The steak will get charred and cannot be eaten anyway.
Hence no steak from space for me tonight.
Credits: Randall Munroe.