July 19, 2002 - Ananova News
Nasa says an interplanetary superhighway discovered by one of its engineers will make space travel simpler.
The solar system 'motorway' is a virtual network of winding tunnels and channels around the Sun and planets.
Each planet and moon has five locations in space called Lagrange points, where one body's gravity balances another. Spacecraft can orbit at those points while burning little fuel.
He came up with the superhighway by mapping out all the possible flight paths among the Lagrange points to see how fast or slow the spacecraft would travel.
Experts say the superhighway flight path will drastically cut the amount of fuel needed for future missions.
Nasa hopes to use the system for future human space missions by building spacecraft docking and repair platforms around the Lagrange points.
The system was discovered by Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Martin Lo.
He's using the theory to draw up a flight path for the Genesis Sun probe and plans to map out a superhighway for the entire solar system.
Mr. Lo sais, "Designing the Genesis spacecraft's flight path with traditional methods used to take eight weeks - now we design a new flight path in less than a day. The savings on fuel translates into a better and cheaper mission."
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