Gravitational Corridors Like Space-Lanes

Gravitational corridors describe minimum energy pathways between objects in the solar system; they connect Lagrange points where gravitational forces balance out.

The graphic below shows the twisting, ever changing pathways that could provide low speed but highly fuel efficient paths between planets and moons.


(Gravitational corridors)

These paths are reminiscent of that wonderful sf notion space-lanes. As far as I know, the first mention of this phrase was in Edmond Hamilton's 1928 classic Crashing Suns:

He had travelled the space-lanes of the solar system for the greater part of his life, and now all of his time-honored rules of interplanetary navigation had been upset by this new cruiser.

Just a generation later, Philip K. Dick borrowed this majestic term and used it to describe a harrowing daily commute back to Earth:

Commute ships roared on all sides, as Ed Morris made his way wearliy home to Earth at the end of a long hard day at the office. The Ganymede-Terra lanes were choked with exhausted, grim-faced businessmen; Jupiter was in opposition to Earth and the trip was a good two hours.

In more modern sf movies, you might want to use this stellar cartography room to plot these routes.


(Picard and Data in stellar cartography)

Hardy spacefarers eager to ply the gravitational corridors between the Earth and Mars in real life should be prepared for a long voyage, though; it could take thousands of years. The best use for these "space-lanes" is as low-consumption routes between the moons of a planet like Jupiter.

The only real-life space voyage to use this method was the Genesis spacecraft launched in 2004 to capture solar wind particles and return with them to Earth.

Via Highways in the Sky; thanks to Moira for pointing this one out.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/13/2009)

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