If you have seen science fiction shows like Star Wars or Star Trek, space vehicles dock or land in a landing bay at high speed. Unfortunately, physics and technology limit our ability to make such a dramatic arrival at the International Space Station. In the real-time video clip, a Soyuz spacecraft is moving towards the station for docking. Notice how slow it is moving. You may have heard of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Although the ISS is large, if the docking spacecraft ‘bumps’ into the Station too fast, it could change the Station’s orbit. The force of the docking would cause the Station to move into a new orbit. From a technology standpoint, docking with too much force could also damage the docking port and prevent astronauts from re-entering the Station. The force could also transfer through the Station and damage other components. The Death Star or the Enterprise are, of course, much, much larger than the ISS so maybe they could handle a faster docking. Hopefully, we will someday have the opportunity for faster dockings as our spacecraft sizes increase.
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