This article considers the gases constituting Earth’s atmosphere and th e vertical structure of the atmosphere to roughly 1,000 - km altitude. T urbulen t mixing keeps the relative concentrations of gases nearly constant in the lowest 100 km. At higher altitudes, molecular diffusion controls the concentrations, with the lighter gases becoming relatively more abundant with increasing altitude. The atmosphere exerts drag on vehicles passing through it, by means of skin friction and larger - scale pressure forces controlled by vehicle shape. High - energy solar radiation dissociates a tmospheric molecules and ionizes atoms and molecules at high altitudes. Ions and free electrons in the upper atmosphere interact with the E arth’s magnetic field. Solar and magnetic storms inject high - energy particles into the upper atmosphere that can be hazardous to humans, spacecraft, and the electrical components inside.
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