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Fly Me to the Moon: An Insider's Guide to the New Science of Space Travel

Popular Science

By: Edward Belbruno

176 pages, 8 halftones, 39 line illus, 1 tab

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Feb 2007 | #165384 | ISBN-13: 9780691128221
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £14.99 $20/€17 approx

About this book

When a leaf falls on a windy day, it drifts and tumbles, tossed every which way on the breeze. This is chaos in action. In Fly Me to the Moon, Edward Belbruno shows how to harness the same principle for low-fuel space travel--or, as he puts it, "surfing the gravitational field."

Belbruno devised one of the most exciting concepts now being used in space flight, that of swinging through the cosmos on the subtle fluctuations of the planets' gravitational pulls. His idea was met with skepticism until 1991, when he used it to get a stray Japanese satellite back on course to the Moon. The successful rescue represented the first application of chaos to space travel and ushered in an emerging new field.

Part memoir, part scientific adventure story, Fly Me to the Moon gives a gripping insider's account of that mission and of Belbruno's personal struggles with the science establishment. Along the way, Belbruno introduces readers to recent breathtaking advances in American space exploration. He discusses ways to capture and redirect asteroids; presents new research on the origin of the Moon; weighs in on discoveries like 2003 UB313 (now named Eris), a dwarf planet detected in the far outer reaches of our solar system--and much more.

Grounded in Belbruno's own rigorous theoretical research but written for a general audience, Fly Me to the Moon is for anybody who has ever felt moved by the spirit of discovery.

[This book] will truly excite anyone interested in the future of space travel... Grounded in real physics, Belbruno's ideas will tantalize the space audience. -- Gilbert Taylor Booklist A small group of scientists has worked on new orbits that take into account the inherently chaotic motion of object in a multibody system... One of the innovators in what is known as 'capture dynamics', Ed Belbruno, provides a basic and eminently readable introduction to the topic in Fly Me to the Moon. -- Jeff Foust The Space Review This book does for mathematics what The Double Helix did for biochemistry, without the gossip and diatribe that made The Double Helix so controversial...Overall, this book is a superb introduction to the life of a real mathematician, and a gentle introduction to some very complex mathematics. -- Jeff Suzuki MAA Review


Foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson ix Preface xiii Acknowledgments xvii Chapter 1 A Moment of Discovery 1 Chapter 2 An Uncertain Start 5 Chapter 3 Conventional Way to the Moon 9 A Fuel Hog 14 Chapter 4 A Question 17 Chapter 5 Chaos and Surfing the Gravitational Field 29 What Is Chaos? 31 Chapter 6 Using Art to Find Chaotic Regions 37 An Oil Painting Unveiling Dynamical Processes 37 Chapter 7 WSB--A Chaotic No-Man's-Land 41 Chapter 8 Getting to the WSB--Low Energy Transfers 49 Chapter 9 Rescue of a Lunar Mission 55 Skepticism, Politics, and a Bittersweet Success 63 Chapter 10 Significance of Hiten 69 Chapter 11 Salvage of HGS-1, and a Christmas Present 77 Chapter 12 Other Space Missions and Low Energy Transfers 83 LGAS Reincarnated: SMART 1 83 Europa Orbiter and Prometheus 85 A Lunar Transportation System 91 Chapter 13 Hopping Comets and Earth Collision 95 Potential Earth Collision 108 Lexell 109 Jupiter-Hopping Earth-Crossing Comets Present a Danger 111 Kuiper Belt Objects and Neptune Hopping 113 Ballistic Escape from the Earth-Moon System, and Asteroid Capture 115 Chapter 14 The Creation of the Moon by Another World 119 Chapter 15 Beyond the Moon and to the Stars 129 Pluto to Alpha Centauri 129 Comets Moving between the Sun and Alpha Centauri 133 Chapter 16 A Paradigm Shift and the Future 137 Bibliography 141 Index 147

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Edward Belbruno is President of Innovative Orbital Design, visiting research collaborator in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, and a consultant on advanced astrodynamics with NASA. He is the author of "Capture Dynamics and Chaotic Motions in Celestial Mechanics" (Princeton).

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