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A friend of mine posted this photo from some snarky Facebook page called “No Hope For The Human Race.”

What weighs more, a space shuttle or a 747 full of humans?
What weighs more, a space shuttle or a 747 full of humans?

Now, the image implies that if a 747 can carry a Space Shuttle, then it must be able to cary a full load of passengers and their standard and extra luggage because that thing looks HEAVY!!!!

Well, that’s a testable hypothesis

The Mass of an un-laiden Space Shuttle about 75,000 KG (165,000 pounds) Let’s compare that to a rough estimation of the mass of passengers and baggage of a fully loaded Boeing 747-400ER.

  • Passenger Capacity: 660
  • Average Body Mass of American: 88.6Kg (Male) 77.2 (Female)
  • Checked Bag Mass: 32 Kg (70 lbs) (United’s maximum for up to three bags)
  • Cary-on Bag Mass: 7Kg According to [Travel.USAToday]

So let’s say the plane is full of  women (to account for the presence of a few kids) with the full 32Kgs of checked luggage and 7Kg cary-on. That gives a total mass per passenger of 116.2 Kg. Which gives a total passenger and baggage load of 84,216 Kg (186,000 #). Or 9,216 Kg more mass than the Space Shuttle. So there you go. I’m calling BS on people Calling BS on United…


As Redditor Shawnz points out, I used the male number for the total per passenger mass.

The author apparently messed up his units somewhere assumed 100% male passengers, because the actual result of that calculation is a much less dramatic 76,692kg. [Reddit]

For all female, it would be

  • 116.2 KG per passenger
  • 76,692 KG total
  • 1,692 KG more than the Space Shuttle.
Shawnz goes on:
But it doesn’t matter, because nobody is talking about maximum capacity here — the extra fees required are due to extra fuel required (in theory). [Reddit]
Quite right.


United Airlines charges $25 for a 50# bag. They charge $35 for a second bag. Assuming your one bag was the Space Shuttle, and the charge per kilogram is $0.454 then it would only cost you $15,800 to take the space shuttle from LA to NYC. That actually seems like a pretty good deal.



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