From Publishers Weekly
As astrophysicist and NASA consultant Belbruno explains in this short book, one of the reasons for the exorbitant cost of space flight is the need for huge amounts of fuel. In addition to the cost of the fuel itself, is its weight: "it is very expensive to bring one pound of anything to the Moon—about a quarter million dollars." By solving what are known as three-body equations (the three bodies, for example, being Earth, the Moon and a spacecraft), Belbruno has discovered trajectories between celestial bodies that make use of both chaos theory and gravitational forces, and enable space travel with a fraction of the fuel normally used. The downside is the greater time needed for travel. A trip to the Moon using Belbruno's method, might take three months rather than three days. But this difference poses no trouble for sending supplies and could dramatically lower the cost of building a permanent base on the Moon. Although Belbruno's main ideas are expressed simply enough for the average reader to appreciate, his account of his efforts is disjointed and not as rewarding as the underlying science. Illus. (Mar.)
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Space navigation has relied on a method called the Hohmann transfer, but the great weight of fuel constrains the entire architecture of the missions. Mathematician Belbruno, an innovative thinker, has devised remarkable solutions he describes in this popular work. It derives from his technical treatise Capture Dynamics and Chaotic Motions in Celestial Dynamics
(2004), and will truly excite anyone interested in the future of space travel. Interspersing personal anecdotes of his career at JPL, Belbruno accessibly explains his alternative method of navigation. It entails coaxing a spacecraft into a gravitationally "weak stability boundary" that surrounds a celestial object so that the craft is gently captured into orbit instead of requiring the huge consumption of rocket fuel. Describing two spacecraft that have already used his techniques, Belbruno then lets our imaginations run to the future possible applications to missions to Mars, detection of Earth-threatening comets, or, more fantastically, a trip to the Alpha Centauri star system. Grounded in real physics, Belbruno's ideas will tantalize the space audience. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved