College Physics 2.13 – Astronauts’ Conversations on the Lunar Surface

Conversations with astronauts on the lunar surface were characterized by a kind of echo in which the earthbound person’s voice was so loud in the astronaut’s space helmet that it was picked up by the astronaut’s microphone and transmitted back to Earth. It is reasonable to assume that the echo time equals the time necessary for the radio wave to travel from the Earth to the Moon and back (that is, neglecting any time delays in the electronic equipment). Calculate the distance from Earth to the Moon given that the echo time was 2.56 s and that radio waves travel at the speed of light 3.00×108 m/s.


The total distance traveled is computed using the formula

\text{distance}=\text{speed}\times \text{time}

Therefore, the total distance traveled is

\text{distance}=\left(3.00\times 10^8\:\text{m/s}\right)\left(2.56\:\sec \right)


Hence, the distance between the Earth and Moon is equal to the total distance traveled divided by 2.

\displaystyle \text{Earth-Moon Distance}=\frac{768\:000\:000\:\text{m}}{2}=384\:000\:000\:\text{meters}

The distance between the Earth and Moon is approximately 384 thousand kilometers.