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Fly Me to the Moon: An Insider's Guide to the New Science of Space Travel Hardcover – February 11, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691128227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691128221
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #927,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Martin on March 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Greatly enjoyed the factual data in this book, though the personal history components were not quite as compelling. The study and exploitation of the less stable portions of the orbital state-space opens up the solar system, allowing travel using a fraction of the energy expenditure needed for the more obvious routes, and Belbruno explains this without requiring immersion in the math.

The later sections that apply these ideas to the natural events in the evolution of orbits were especially interesting; the interactions of comets with Jupiter were a fuller explanation of fairly widely known events, but the proposed explanation of where a planet came from to do the sideswipe of Earth that created our moon and tilted our axis was totally new to me.

A fun fast read for any space junky...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Librum VINE VOICE on June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The core ideas in FMttM are quite interesting, and EB explains them well. For non-technical space junkies, this book is a must.

That said, FMttM is outrageously priced at $19.95 retail. It's a very slim and very quick reading book (it took all of about 2 hours to read it leisurely from cover to cover). The core ideas in FMttM could just as well have been written up in a New Yorker-type/length article.

With due respect to the author, I'd recommend picking up a used or remaindered copy of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. S. Kennedy on September 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
NASA likes to go BIG ... big rockets, fast travel, lots of fuel. Here is a story about using more natural methods to travel through space. It takes a while, so NASA fired the author, but he got a laugh later. He calls it "surfing the gravitational field". I first heard about it in a lecture series on chaos, very interesting stuff.
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