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Fly Me to the Moon:
An Insider's Guide to the New Science of Space Travel
Edward Belbruno
With a foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Hardcover | 2007 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691128221
192 pp. | 5 x 7 1/2 | 8 halftones. 39 line illus. 1 table.
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(Painting the Way to the Moon - Documentary trailer)

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

"Fly Me to the Moon provides a fast, very readable account of new developments in chaotic celestial mechanics, especially low-fuel space travel, at a level appropriate for a general audience. By the end, nonmathematicians will have gained some intuition about one of the hallmarks of chaos, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, and how chaos can be harnessed to good purpose. All readers will walk away thinking differently about the cosmos. Far from being a clockwork, it will seem more dynamic, more turbulent, and full of diverse possibilities."--Shane Ross, Notices of the American Mathematical Society

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This book has been translated into:

  • Japanese

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