Fact Check

Is Outer Space 'Only an Hour Away' if You Could Drive Straight up at 60 MPH?

"If" is doing some heavy lifting here.

Published Feb 9, 2023

 (SpaceX via Getty Images)
Image Via SpaceX via Getty Images
If you could drive your car straight into the sky at 60 mph, outer space is only an hour away.

The boundary between the atmosphere and space is commonly defined as 62 miles away and would vary depending on the altitude at which the journey, which is not physically possible, began.

On Feb. 3, 2023, the popular Twitter account ÜberFacts tweeted that "outer space is only an hour away if you could drive your car straight into the sky at 60 MPH"

This is a cheeky way of saying that space begins 60 miles above Earth's surface — a statement that is broadly true. 

As a NASA article on The Edge of Space explains, "there is no sharp physical boundary that marks the end of atmosphere and the beginning of space," but a commonly recognized boundary is known as the Karman Line. Strictly defined, the Karman Line occurs 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) above Earth's mean sea level. 

Sure, starting a theoretical vertical car drive at mean sea level would take a bit longer than an hour, given that 62 miles of distance required to cover, but who is to say such a trip didn't start from the Peruvian city of Huancayo (elevation ~2 miles)? 

In any event, as XKCD and "What If" author Randall Munroe once wrote, getting to space is "not, like, something you could do in your car." Because, however, space arguably begins roughly 60 miles away from Earth's surface, the claim is nevertheless "True."


Orbital Speed. https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

The Edge of Space | Science Mission Directorate. https://science.nasa.gov/edge-space. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

"Where Is Space?" NESDIS, https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/news/where-space. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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