NASA and the Meteor

NASA locates a meteor in outer space and concludes that it has either a cubical or spherical shape. In order to determine the exact shape, NASA lands a spacecraft on the meteor and lets a rover travel from the spacecraft to the opposite point on the planet. By measuring the relative position of the rover with respect to the spacecraft throughout its travel on the planet (in 3D coordinates), can NASA always determine the shape, no matter the route taken by the rover?

The answer is NO. 

The question is equivalent to analyzing the intersection of a cube and a sphere which share a common center. Thus the question gets reduced to figuring out whether such intersection, which is a curve, can connect two opposite points on the sphere/cube.

Let the edge of the cube has length 1. If you pick the radius of the sphere equal to √2/2, the intersection will consist of 6 circles inscribed in the sides of the cube. Then the rover can just move along these circles from one point to its opposite and NASA won’t be able to figure out the exact shape.

Remark: It is not hard to see that 2:√2 is the only edge-radius ratio, for which NASA can’t figure out the shape.

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  1. This is not a cube. Plus once you get to the edge you can see the flat portions. There is on obvious difference where the curved and flat surfaces meet.

    1. Hey K P. I believe you did not understand well the problem. The question is, is there a trajectory that could be connecting either opposite points on a cube, or opposite points on a sphere. You are not allowed to look around, just determine the shape based on that trajectory.