Question

Which of these 3 sports will be the hardest or the easiest to play on the moon? Basketball, Soccer or Football?

Asked by: Victor Chan

Answer

This question is great! It's subject to personal opinion, of course, but I'll try to justify my own take on it...

The way I considered this question was that I imagine taking a basketball game, a soccer game, and a football game and suddenly dropping them on the moon. I then asked myself how much adjustment it would take the players to get the game to look normal again, or at least playable.

The first thought that entered my mind was that soccer would be the most difficult and would require a lot of adjustment by the players. Because soccer players manipulate the ball with their feet, they have less control over the ball than basketball and football players. Even with the best soccer turf shoes, it would be difficult to play on the moon. On the moon, the ball in a soccer game would undergo much wilder motion. Earthly bounces and skips would become big, bounding arcs. The ball would hardly ever be in contact with the ground! You'd have throw-ins like crazy from all the players kicking the ball out of control. They'd have to kick the ball much less hard just to keep it in play and at a human-accessible height. So many shots and passes and moves involve the ball being airborne, often not in a very controlled manner, that the players would take quite a while, I think, to get used to it. Also, I think goalkeepers would love being on the moon. Whenever a shot didn't sail over the goal, he'd have a much better range; he could jump all over the place, then try and chuck it. Basically, soccer is the hardest because controlling the ball with your feet leads toward the most unexpected motion, and that's here on Earth! On the moon, a lot of ball motion will be amplified.

Football would be interesting. Naturally, you'd see a lot of very long passes, and the more agile guys, who already try to jump over the defensive line here on earth, are going to take flying leaps on the moon. The field will get a little small, like in soccer, but both teams will adjust and use it to their delightful advantage. I think football would probably be the most fun to watch under low gravity...but...

I think basketball players would have the most enhancement to their game. It's already a game of height, and now these guys would be able to jump lunar-style, so we'd see some great dunks. We'd see dunk three-pointers; guys could jump from half-court and dunk with ease. Not only that, but because the shape of a jump shot is the same on Earth and the moon (a big old arc), the players would have no problem adjusting when shooting from the outside. They would just move back and launch full courters all day; it would be like their strength was magnified six times! They could take the same shots as before, just from tremendously further out. Face it; basketball players are already upset that Earth has so much gravity!

So overall, I think basketball would be the easiest, since gravity is all that's holding them back on Earth now, and soccer would be the hardest, since gravity is all that's keeping the ball in play on Earth now!

Answered by: Steve Healey, Physics student, Rutgers University, New Jersey

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