Why can’t we fly a plane into space, what stops it from just flying higher and higher until we are in space?, sounds like a daft question but it has interesting implications that mean we might not be that far from a plane that can fly into space.
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Well, there several issues but assuming we are in something like a normal jet airliner, then one of the main problems is the air, or lack of it as we get closer to space.
A plane flies because as it is propelled forward, the wings, which are shaped to make the air flow faster over the top of them than the bottom, generate lift. As the plane goes faster the wings create more lift and when the lift is greater than the weight of the plane, it will climb up into the air.
For our plane to continue to climb it needs more speed to increase the lift. If you throttle back on the speed a bit, the plane will settle in to level flight and if you decrease the speed the plane will start to fall as lift from the wings is not enough to overcome the weight of the plane.
Author: P C III
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0