Spacecraft could be built to surf along gravitational corridors between planets and moons, allowing longer and cheaper journeys around the solar system, scientists have revealed. Scientists in the United States are trying to map the twisting tubes so they could be used to cut the cost of space travel.
“There are low-energy passageways winding between the planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system,” explained Professor Shane Ross, from Virginia Tech university, in the U.S. “You can think of them as natural conduits through the solar system.”
Each one acts like a gravitational Gulf Stream, created from the complex interplay of attractive forces between planets and moons.
Professor Ross was outlining the ideas to the British Science Festival in Guildford this week. “Basically the idea is there are low energy pathways winding between planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system”, he said.
“Once you get to another planet, especially a planet that has its own moons, like Jupiter, you could start using these techniques to go between the different moons of Jupiter or Saturn,” he said. “The trade-off is it takes time. To go between two moons of Jupiter could take several months.”