Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson debunk Top Gun: Maverick
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, along with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have broken down the physics behind Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick.
When Maverick ejected at Mach 10.5, he was going 7,000 mph, giving him 400 million joules of kinetic energy — the explosive power of 100 kg of TNT. A situation that human physiology is not designed to survive.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 9, 2022
So, no. Maverick does not walk away from this. He be dead. Very dead.
The latest installment into the Top Gun series saw the return of Tom Cruise playing the fan-favorite character Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell for the highly anticipated sequel, and while the movie was certainly a success at the box office, scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson have broken down the physics that were displayed throughout a specific scene in the movie. As with most movies, what viewers witness on the big screen isn’t necessarily possible in real life, and Maverick’s achievement of reaching Mach 10.5 seems to be one of those instances.
deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to explain that when Maverick was traveling at Mach 10.5 and was forced to eject from his aircraft due to a malfunction, he was moving at 7,000 mph, which gave him 400 million joules of kinetic energy, or the explosive power of 100 kg (220 pounds) of TNT. deGrasse Tyson added that the human body is incapable of surviving this much kinetic energy and that Maverick would have certainly died in the real-world.
These points were backed up by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who wrote that kinetic energy scales with the square of velocity and that this fact is “not well-appreciated” assumingly within the film. However, Musk decided to provide a solution for this problem that might save Maverick’s life if he was to eject at 7,000 mph in the real-world.
Musk said that a “sealed escape pod with a heat shield” would “probably work”. For reference, the fastest speed a human has ever traveled, according to the Guinness World Records, is the command module of Apollo 10, carrying Col. (later Lieut Gen.) Thomas Patten Stafford, USAF, which traveled at 39,937 km/h, or Mach 32. However, the members aboard the command module didn’t eject and were relatively safe within the module’s protective shell.