Fly Me to the Moon: An Insider's Guide to the New Science of Space Travel

By Edward Belbruno, Neil deGrasse Tyson

42 ratings - 3.74* vote

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 swingi When a leaf falls on a windy day, it drifts and tumbles, tossed every which way on the breeze. This is chaos in action.

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Book details

Hardcover, 148 pages
March 1st 2007 by Princeton University Press

(first published January 22nd 2007)

Original Title
Fly Me to the Moon: An Insider's Guide to the New Science of Space Travel
0691128227 (ISBN13: 9780691128221)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Being a priest in the Church of Science can be such hard word. Sometimes the Church won't allocate funds to your theology research, other times God the Government will stop its grant blessings and turn his face away from his priests because of the wicked plans of the anti-science heretics. Foreword from a Cardinal in the Church of Science that makes daily penance at gala luncheons and TV shows on the taxpayer's expense. It might look like Stalin's Soviet Union, but those were another denomination.


Edward Belbruno is a specialist in celestial mechanics. Usually, when a spacecraft is sent from the Earth to the Moon, it is first accelerated in a single impulse from a circular orbit around the Earth to a highly eccentric elliptical orbit, let coast, and then decelerated in a single impulse from this orbit to a circular orbit around the Moon. What Belbruno realized is that the surface between the Earth and the Moon that passes through the Lagrange points is special because orbital motion around it is chaotic, and so is that between the Earth and the Sun; you can navigate through these surfaces with very specific impulses, and let the spacecraft settle into the right orbit. The advantage is that you only need half the fuel for a given payload; the disadvantage is that the mission takes years instead of days. When a Japanese satellite heading for the Moon was lost, Belbruno working at JPL calculated the trajectory for another satellite to be used as a replacement. He later founded his own company to do such calculations.

-ed- Erwin

This book is about low energy orbital mechanics, or, essentially, how to get a satelite or other such objects from one orbit to another using very little power. WTF!? It's actually a fascinating book, and I am not a physicist or the like. It is the story of an idea, a theory, and how it was developed, discredited, then ultimately proven. And it is written with such conviction and with an innate ability to communicate a highly technical concept, a theoretical concept, on a human, everyman level, that it is easily understood. A marvel.


How to get from one planet to the other w/ very little fuel. It's an essay summarizing the author's research w/ a bit of biography thrown in. I think it's amazing his ideas, which we now take for granted, were so poorly received when he first proposed them. I was disappointed when he chose to patent his method (it's just math!) but if given JPL's response, I don't think he had any other choice.

Very easy to read. No math required. I love the hand-drawn diagrams.

Ellen Druda

A short explanation of space exploration using the gravitational fields between and around planets. It takes longer, but saves on fuel, basically. There are what look like hand-drawn diagrams that explain the ideas put forth, and that adds to the conversational tone. Despite the science, this was an easy read.

Andrew McBurney

This is a very interesting and accessible book about an alternative route to the moon. Belbruno not only makes the physics of spaceflight easy to understand, but also leaves the reader with an appreciation of the beauty and balance of the Earth and Moon.


Belbrunno used to work for JPL and he developed an exciting low energy transfer with a ballistic capture orbit that utilizes chaos theory.



Steve Gross

Even though it's a very short book, some chapters seem to be almost a repetition of others. However, the idea is new and fascinating.