orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

65 results back to index


pages: 410 words: 103,421

The Martian by Andy Weir

8-hour work day, Colonization of Mars, digital map, lateral thinking, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, side project

We need them edible after impact. “We can weigh nine hundred and forty-one kilograms. At least three hundred of that needs to be food. Get crackin’.” ••• “UH, DR. KAPOOR?” Rich said, peeking his head into Venkat’s office. “Do you have a minute?” Venkat gestured him in. “You are…?” “Rich, Rich Purnell,” he said, shuffling into the office, his arms wrapped around a sheaf of disorganized papers. “From astrodynamics.” “Nice to meet you,” Venkat said. “What can I do for you, Rich?” “I came up with something a while ago. Spent a lot of time on it.” He dumped the papers on Venkat’s desk. “Lemme find the summary.…” Venkat stared forlornly at his once-clean desk, now strewn with scores of printouts. “Here we go!” Rich said triumphantly, grabbing a paper. Then his expression saddened. “No, this isn’t it.” “Rich,” Venkat said.

Though his duties as navigator were laughably easy. The computer knew the course. It knew when to angle the ship so the ion engines would be aimed correctly. And it knew the location of the ship at all times (easily calculated from the position of the sun and Earth, and knowing the exact time from an on-board atomic clock). Barring a complete computer failure or other critical event, Vogel’s vast knowledge of astrodynamics would never come into play. After completing the check, he ran a diagnostic on the engines. They were functioning at peak. He did all this from his quarters. All onboard computers could control all ships’ functions. Gone were the days of physically visiting the engines to check up on them. Having completed his work for the day, he finally had time to read e-mail. Sorting through the messages NASA deemed worthy to upload, he read the most interesting first and responded when necessary.


pages: 183 words: 54,731

Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy by John Lewis

3D printing, cosmic abundance, Elon Musk, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, zero-sum game

The ark also can provide enhanced situational awareness for the swarm members, reporting their own position as seen from a stand-off distance, and the positions of the other CubeSats. It also allows a 3D viewing perspective that no single spacecraft can achieve. Returning a Piece of the Deep Dark Spacecraft three to four times larger than FireFlies will be able to collect small rocks and regolith from target asteroids. Analyses done by the astrodynamics team at Deep Space Industries have found several NEAs for which round-trip voyages are feasible using small spacecraft capabilities. The calculations are complicated, as the energy required to reach a target changes every year as the orbital positions of the Earth and the NEA shift relative to each other. Figure III.3: DragonFlies will select promising small boulder, rocks and regolith for return to Earth for intensive analysis.


pages: 437 words: 126,860

Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kevin Kelly, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, planetary scale, skunkworks, spice trade, telerobotics, uranium enrichment

It was, instead, a treatise on the “true reality” of the heavens, an epic work that overthrew two thousand years of dogma and replaced it with an astronomy based on causes. In it he laid out what are now known as Kepler’s first two Laws of Planetary Motion; that the planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus, and that the radius vector from the Sun to the planet sweeps out equal areas in equal times. These laws are correct and are found today in all textbooks on astrodynamics. Equally important, however, was what strictly speaking can be called Kepler’s incorrect hypothesis: that the planets were pulled by a “magnetic” force emanating from the Sun, spreading out from it “in the manner of sunlight.” When his opponents accused him of mixing physics with astronomy, Kepler replied, “I believe that both sciences are so closely bound that neither can achieve perfection without the other.”


pages: 370 words: 129,096

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

addicted to oil, Burning Man, cleantech, digital map, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, global supply chain, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mercator projection, money market fund, multiplanetary species, optical character recognition, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, paypal mafia, performance metric, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize

According to Musk’s calculations, he could undercut existing launch companies by building a modest-sized rocket that would cater to a part of the market that specialized in carrying smaller satellites and research payloads to space. The spreadsheet also laid out the hypothetical performance characteristics of the rocket in fairly impressive detail. “I said, ‘Elon, where did you get this?’” Cantrell said. Musk had spent months studying the aerospace industry and the physics behind it. From Cantrell and others, he’d borrowed Rocket Propulsion Elements, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, and Aerothermodynamics of Gas Turbine and Rocket Propulsion, along with several more seminal texts. Musk had reverted to his childhood state as a devourer of information and had emerged from this meditative process with the realization that rockets could and should be made much cheaper than what the Russians were offering. Forget the mice. Forget the plant with its own video feed growing—or possibly dying—on Mars.


pages: 945 words: 292,893

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

clean water, Colonization of Mars, Danny Hillis, digital map, double helix, epigenetics, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, kremlinology, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, phenotype, Potemkin village, pre–internet, random walk, remote working, selection bias, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, the scientific method, Tunguska event, zero day, éminence grise

It was not a literal rendering of what the cloud looked like, though you could make it show you that if you clicked the right menus. Parambulator was a tour de force of data visualization that would only make sense to people like Ivy, Doob, and most of the Arkies, who had spent a lot of time learning about orbital mechanics. Starting with empirical observations from Lina Ferreira and other mathematically sophisticated biologists, mathematicians like Zhong Hu had extrapolated swarm algorithms from three to six dimensions and physicists like Ivy had figured out how to make these algorithms work under the special constraints of orbital mechanics. In general, every vessel in the cloud was shown as a dot on a three-dimensional scatter plot showing information about its orbit. Six numbers—the orbital parameters, or, as everyone up here had begun to call them, the params—were required to convey everything about an orbit.

There couldn’t possibly be, since the Drop Top didn’t even have a port or an airlock. So there’d been no way to attach it to Izzy. He had brought the little convertible in under manual control, tapping the thrusters one at a time, spitting bullets of spent propellant into space, then pausing for one, five, or ten minutes to ponder the consequences. Space nerd that he was, he knew perfectly well that orbital mechanics did not obey the rules of earthbound physics. He had enough humility, and enough spare oxygen, to take it slow. Eventually he had drifted close enough to Amalthea that a three-Siwi train with a Grabb on its head had been able to reach out and grapple a fitting on the edge of his cockpit. He had then ejected himself from the vehicle, floating free in space, and gone on a little tour of inspection, firing off occasional messages to Dinah so that she could know where he was.

Judging from some interactions that had been happening as crowding and stress had gotten more intense, she was going to have her work cut out for her. A bunch of desperate people crowded aboard a pitching and rudderless fishing boat was an uncomfortably close match for the situation up here. Luisa had a relaxed self-confidence that made it easy for her to admit that she knew absolutely nothing about such topics as orbital mechanics. But it was more than just that; she knew how to use her own ignorance as an icebreaker in conversations. Izzy was full of people who were skewed toward the Asperger’s end of the social spectrum, and there was no better way to get them to start talking than to ask them a technical question. But when everyone else was busy, Luisa was not above googling her question down to Earth and latching on to a YouTube video, as she was doing now.


pages: 485 words: 149,337

The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker

gravity well, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, RFID, stem cell

DYSON The Aldrin Express derives its name from Buzz Aldrin, whom most people know as the Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon alongside Neil Armstrong in 1969. Not as many people know that Aldrin was the first astronaut with a PhD (from MIT), and his doctoral thesis was “Guidance for Manned Orbital Rendezvous.” NASA selected him because of this expertise. The other astronauts soon nicknamed him “Dr. Rendezvous” as a result. Aldrin’s orbital mechanical skills were needed when the radar failed during Gemini 12. Aldrin did the calculations in his head while Jim Lovell piloted their ship during a rendezvous in Earth orbit. If a similar failure had occurred in lunar orbit, he could have helped Armstrong rendezvous with Mike Collins in the “mother ship” while out of touch with Mission Control. After Apollo, Aldrin joined a chorus of space enthusiasts promoting plans to explore and settle Mars.

I owed him for my second chance as a doctor. And instinctively, I hated him. I had the urge to knock him out of that chair, but I held my temper. Barely. I had signed aboard the Aldrin’s first full cycle to Mars and back. She had been through shakedown cruises in Earth-Luna space before then, but now she would begin a series of boost maneuvers to launch her on a cycler trajectory to Mars. After a flyby, orbital mechanics would sling her out and eventually back to Earth; and then, with skilled piloting, she would repeat that cycle, Earth to Mars and back, again and again with minimal fuel costs. All it took was time: five months out, twenty-one months back. I faced over two years under a captain whom I hated. My streak of career bad luck looked to stay unbroken. I returned to my new office, a small space that smelled like a doctor’s office should—disinfectant with a tang of medicine—but looked like the interior of a mud hut.

“The Aldrin is a very fine vessel, Captain,” Morais said. “I see the new habitat rings are completed.” “Completed and half-booked. It’s getting a bit crowded aboard.” Nick was proud of his command, but he didn’t like many people. The more the Aldrin grew, the more he huddled in his black-walled office and let me deal with passengers and crew. “I would offer you an inspection tour, but—” “Orbital mechanics waits for no man,” Morais replied with an old clichè of the space business. “Still, we’ll have time for a fine reception, and for our dance.” Nick’s face was stony. “I’ll have to pass on the dance. It was bad enough Carver got me into this suit. Dancing wasn’t part of the agreement.” The admiral shook her head. “I must insist. Protocol demands an officers’ dance; and as senior officers present, we must set an example.


pages: 340 words: 96,242

Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis

affirmative action, experimental subject, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

Their only chance was still the Brazilian Jesus do Sul return rocket, at the pole. There were now hundreds of news reporters asking for interviews; Houston was holding them off, but did they want to talk to reporters? When their "no" answer came through, nobody seemed surprised. "Copy that," was the reply. "One more thing for you. Hold on a moment. I think you may want to hear this directly from our orbital mechanics guy." The orbital mechanics guy, as it turned out, was a middle-aged woman. Ryan recognized her; what was her name, Lorentz? She had a reputation for being both hard-working and smart. She spoke in a Texas accent, launching in without bothering to say hello first. "We tracked down the complete specs on that Brazilian rocket, checked it out against a matrix of trajectories available for your launch window.

It also meant a little world, appropriate for the tiny cylinder of atmosphere in orbit around the Earth; or with a slight change in pronunciation and spelling, it meant "little Mary," which was the pet name the Russian cosmonauts unofficially favored. As it happened, although the Mirusha was at a nearly identical altitude, it had an orbital plane tilted in a different orientation. The laws of orbital mechanics mandated that there is no easy way to change orbital planes. To get to the Mirusha from the international space station required so great an orbital plane change that the easiest way to do it would actually be to return to the Earth and take off again into the new orbit. So when the news came through the grapevine that the two Russian cosmonauts in the Mirusha were in trouble, that the station was leaking and the Russians had blown up two launch vehicles trying to rescue them, John Radkowski nearly ignored the news.

This was little enough— radar readings from the ground tracking stations to confirm what the interior navigation of the crew return vehicle already told him—but he was glad enough for it. "CRV-1, you should be getting transponder now," Nordwijk told him. He frowned. He was getting nothing. No, there it was on his rendezvous radar. But where was the transponder? He was coming up on it backward; by the strange ballet rules of orbital mechanics, Mirusha was coming up from behind him as he rose to meet it. He could see it now, a brilliant, lumpy star blazing in the sunlight. "Roger, I've acquired it visually," he said. He checked the rendezvous radar. Eight kilometers, closing rate one-fifty meters per second. He corrected his vehicle pitch slightly and made a three-second engine burn with the maneuvering engine, raising his perigee to bring his orbit closer to synch with the Russians, and checked the radar again.


Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Charles Lindbergh, Hans Lippershey, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

Command pilot McDivitt tried to maneuver his Gemini close to the spent upper stage of its Titan II booster, but as he pointed the nose of his craft toward the target and activated his thruster jets to close the distance, a curious thing happened—the booster moved away and downward. A few minutes later, he tried again, once more with no luck. After a few more attempts, Kraft finally told him to quit trying. Without an onboard rendezvous radar, planned for later Gemini missions, rendezvous would have to wait. What this revealed was the complexity of orbital mechanics, which on the most basic level worked exactly the opposite of how it did with aircraft. Adding speed while in orbit raises a ship to a higher orbital path, where it will paradoxically slow down, since the craft’s orbital speed is a direct function of its distance from the center of gravity of the object it’s circling—in this case, Earth. The ship’s target will now be traversing a lower, and shorter, orbit, and will consequently move faster around the Earth.

At the correct moment, a burst of speed will lift the craft close enough to the target’s orbit to eliminate all relative motion between them, at which point these paradoxical effects virtually disappear, and station-keeping, or flying in formation in space, is achieved. Only then can docking be attempted. McDivitt’s failure was a lesson learned, and much of the subsequent Gemini missions would involve perfecting orbital mechanics and rendezvous maneuvers. The second goal, however, was achieved. A few hours after the failed rendezvous, the cabin was depressurized, and after some difficulty, White’s hatch was opened. A hundred miles above the Earth, he went drifting out into the void of space connected to the craft by a twenty-five-foot, gold-tape-wrapped umbilical cord supplying his oxygen. For twenty minutes, he floated around the capsule, maneuvering with bursts of compressed air from a small zip gun and shooting photos with a Hasselblad on his chest.

When he arrived at his astronaut interview in a suit and tie wearing his flight wings and Phi Beta Kappa key, Gus Grissom said, “We’ve already seen your résumé. Why are you wearing it?” Small talk was a foreign language to Buzz, and one he never mastered. Even fellow astronauts dreaded sitting next to “Dr. Rendezvous” at dinner, since the conversation usually became a one-sided lecture on Aldrin’s favorite topic, orbital mechanics. He once spent hours lecturing an astronaut’s wife on the subject. “Aldrin,” said one friend, “is a professor who is always on.” One newspaper referred to him by a nickname that some at NASA, and even Aldrin, had used: the Mechanical Man. “I sometimes think he could correct a computer,” one flight planner commented. If a computer could talk, he might have sounded like Aldrin. After the Gemini 9 misunderstanding, Slayton had suggested that next time, Buzz should let him translate.


pages: 361 words: 110,905

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Maui Hawaii, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

If Borman added velocity in the wrong part of the spectrum of angles, he might only increase the spacecraft’s vertical separation from the third stage rather than get ahead of it. Or he might even move Apollo 8 back into the third stage’s path. That was one of the challenges of flying in formation in space; you had to know not just your own trajectory but that of the object you were trying to move toward or away from. And there was little about orbital mechanics that one could eyeball against a black background that stretched forever. The spent stage moved even closer to the spacecraft. From Houston, Collins recommended a separation maneuver. “I don’t want to do that,” Borman answered. “I’ll lose sight of the S-IVB.” “Frank, if you use zero, then make the [separation] if possible in the plus-X thrusters. That’s the direction of the burn we’d like,” Collins said.

Hearing the clamor of the reporters on their lawns, Susan and Valerie went outside their homes to answer questions from the press. Only Marilyn didn’t move from her spot in front of the television. She just stared at the screen, trying to process the distance between her and her husband. Focus at Mission Control turned to the giant projection screens at the front of the room. By the estimates of trajectory and orbital mechanics specialists, Apollo 8 was about to cross what some called the equigravisphere, the point at which Earth and Moon exert an equal pull of gravity. It had taken until now, about five-sixths of the way to the Moon, to reach the equigravisphere, a testament to the dominance of Earth in its finely balanced relationship with its smaller satellite. There would be nothing to mark the place in space, no bump or jolt to the spacecraft.

Anders joked, “Chris [Kraft] probably said, ‘No matter what happens, turn it off.’ ” Anders had seen how concerned—obsessed—Borman had been about this moment during training. It took a second for Borman to realize Anders was kidding. After that, Borman couldn’t stop smiling. Another critical hurdle in the Apollo 8 mission had been cleared. In Houston, controllers looked at each other with a sense of wonder and relief, shaking their heads and then shaking hands. Orbital mechanics—the way the universe ordered and moved itself—worked. And man had figured it out to the split second. The relief at Mission Control was short-lived. In ten minutes, Apollo 8 would fire its Service Propulsion System engine in order to slow itself enough to achieve lunar orbit. The SPS had to work perfectly. And everyone remembered how the engine had fallen short of optimal performance during its brief test firing on the way to the Moon.


pages: 323 words: 94,156

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern, David Grinspoon

crowdsourcing, Dava Sobel, delayed gratification, four colour theorem, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet

Shortly after, Mariner 10 would make the first visit to Mercury, traveling there by way of Venus, where it would make the first ever use of a “gravity assist,” a nifty trick that has since become indispensable for getting around the solar system. In a gravity-assist maneuver, a spacecraft is sent on a near-miss trajectory to one planet, which pulls it in and then speeds it toward its next target. It seems too good to be true—like getting something for nothing, but it’s not—the equations of orbital mechanics do not lie. For the planet, the tiny loss of orbital speed it trades with the spacecraft has no meaningful effect, but the spacecraft gets a whopping shove in just the right direction. Pioneer 11 was slated to use this same trick during its planned flyby of Jupiter, allowing it to then go on to Saturn. If all these missions were successful, then before that decade was out, spacecraft from Earth would have visited all five planets known to the ancients—Mercury through Saturn.

His fascination with space exploration continued, but he did not see himself becoming a scientist. Even today he remembers hearing about the decision for Voyager 1 to study Titan rather than attempt the longer, riskier journey to Pluto. “I remember thinking back then, ‘They made a smart choice, but it’s too bad—we’ll probably never have the chance to see Pluto.’” Alan maintained a keen interest in the way spacecraft missions work, but his master’s program, with a focus on orbital mechanics, was strategically designed to build a résumé that would enable him to be selected by NASA’s astronaut program. What would be the right next move for that? Alan wanted to show NASA he was versatile, so he went for a second master’s in another field, planetary atmospheres. The choice turned out to be pivotal. Alan recalls: There was a young, hotshot planetary research professor at Texas who also wanted to be an astronaut, Larry Trafton.

The resulting design included a much smaller instrument payload than Voyager’s, but with more-compact and modern instruments designed to maximize science per pound, including a camera and infrared spectrometers to photograph and map Pluto’s surface, an ultraviolet spectrometer to examine the atmosphere, and a plasma instrument to measure interaction with the solar wind. Farquhar (who, sadly, died in late 2015, shortly after witnessing the Pluto flyby just months before) was a genius of orbital mechanics and had a legendary knack for finding crafty solutions to get from planet to planet with less fuel than others thought possible, primarily by using clever gravitational assists. One of his innovations that greatly lowered the anticipated costs of the Pluto 350 mission was to plan a launch on a relatively small rocket, a Delta II. A liability of this plan was that it wouldn’t have enough velocity to fly straight to Jupiter for the gravity assist toward Pluto.


pages: 255 words: 88,987

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

dark matter, invisible hand, Kickstarter, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Skype, éminence grise

But you don’t have to go to space to learn to do that. It’s mostly a matter of changing your perspective. 2 HAVE AN ATTITUDE NO MATTER HOW COMPETENT or how seasoned, every astronaut is essentially a perpetual student, forever cramming for the next test. It’s not how I envisioned things when I was 9 years old. Then I dreamed of blasting off in a blaze of glory to explore the universe, not sitting in a classroom studying orbital mechanics. In Russian. But as it happens, I love my job—the day-to-day reality of it, not just the flying around in space part (though that is definitely cool). If the only thing you really enjoyed was whipping around Earth in a spaceship, you’d hate being an astronaut. The ratio of prep time to time on orbit is many months: single day in space. You train for a few years, minimum, before you’re even assigned to a space mission; training for a specific mission then takes between two and four years, and is much more intensive and rigorous than general training.

During the year I was an ASCAN, the learning curve was daunting and there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities to stand out. After that first year, I worked on certifying payloads, which involved endless meetings to make sure that all the science experiments were actually safe for space flight. In the meantime, just like all my classmates, I was going through general training: geology, meteorology, orbital mechanics, robotics and so on. People who’d been in the Astronaut Office only a year or two longer seemed to be light years ahead, even though they hadn’t been to space yet. Then came the day when the first person in our class got assigned to a space flight. It was a great moment: “Wow, one of us made it!” It felt like a group affirmation, as though all of us were on our way at last. Then the second person got assigned, and it wasn’t me.

A few months later, though, we happened to be at the Cape together for a launch, talking to the head of JSC, when with no prompting or warning, the commander began extolling my powers of observation for having caught this error in the sim. I got assigned to my first mission shortly thereafter. There may not be a connection, but one thing is certain: aiming to be a zero didn’t hurt my chances. Approaching a space station, you turn your mind to the technicalities of rendezvous and docking. It’s not like parking a car. It isn’t intuitive, because orbital mechanics aren’t like anything on Earth. When you throw a ball or roll it down a hill, you can predict with fair accuracy where it will go, and how its trajectory would change if you threw harder or softer. But in space, you have to go faster to reach a higher orbit—and once you get there, you actually go slower. So in order to maneuver to link up with another orbiting vehicle, you have to think in a whole new way about how objects behave.


pages: 628 words: 170,668

In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969 by Francis French, Colin Burgess, Walter Cunningham

Berlin Wall, British Empire, Charles Lindbergh, Isaac Newton, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, X Prize

“The mission will be there in history forever,” Stafford stated decades later. And as Jim Lovell told the authors, the rendezvous success was the culmination of a fast and effective process: “On Gemini 4, when McDivitt and Ed White tried to do the rendezvous, they kept circling around, because they didn’t realize the aspects of orbital mechanics, where you retrograde to get up there, and you posigrade to go down—all that sort of stuff. It took a little while for that type of rendezvous to be developed. Gemini 6 and 7 was a real rendezvous—by that time we understood orbital mechanics. We completed the first rendezvous in space.” As for the medical experiments, they had also been very important, but the astronauts were far less likely to enthuse about them. For Borman, it seems, Gemini 7 was enough for one lifetime. In his memoirs, former scientist-astronaut Brian O’Leary vividly recalled a meeting the astronaut corps had with nasa Administrator Jim Webb two years after the Gemini 7 flight.

As he told the authors, he knew that this was going to be tough because of his background: “I didn’t start out to be a test pilot; I got into the business by being an egghead from mit. Other people went to test-pilot training—I concentrated on education. I got fascinated with orbital mechanics, and I had some interesting things in my background, but they didn’t really want somebody who hadn’t been in the test pilot business.” Aldrin was assigned to mission planning, and he saw it as an opportunity to advance his ideas in rendezvous theory and put them into practice. As he wrote in his memoirs, it was not always an easy experience for him “translating these complex orbital mechanics into relatively simple flight plans for my colleagues. . . . I saw that most of these guys weren’t really interested.” Aldrin felt that most of them were “hard-core stick-and-rudder fighter jocks” who did not wish to know anything more than which way to point the spacecraft.

Gus Grissom was on CapCom duty at the time, and he looked over at Flight Director Chris Kraft. “Give it up,” Kraft sighed. “Tell him to save the fuel.” In fact, McDivitt had already expended nearly 50 percent of his fuel supply in the futile chase, and the remainder would be needed for the spacewalk and reentry. Grissom passed the message to McDivitt, who concurred. As Grissom would later point out, “the effort did point out that the orbital mechanics involved in rendezvous were a little more involved than had been expected.” Their disappointment did not last long. Just seconds later Grissom relayed a welcome message from Chris Kraft to the crew: “Okay, we’re giving you a GO for your eva at this time.” Though the eva was originally planned for the second orbit, it took McDivitt and White so long to go through the forty-item checklist that Mission Control wisely decided to delay until the third orbit.


pages: 648 words: 170,770

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

different worldview, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition

“Import-export, same as everyone else,” Miller said with a shrug. “We investigated them as a possible front for the Loca Greiga. Never tied them down, though.” “You were right.” “You prove it?” “Not my job,” Dawes said. “But this might interest you. Automated docking logs for the ship when she left here and when she arrived on Ganymede. She’s three tons lighter, not even counting reaction mass consumption. And the transit time is longer than the orbital mechanics projections.” “Someone met her,” Miller said. “Transferred the gear to another ship.” “There’s your answer,” Dawes said. “Both of them. The riot gear was taken off the station by local organized crime. There aren’t records to support it, but I think it’s safe to assume that they also shipped out the personnel to use that gear.” “Where to?” Dawes lifted his hands. Miller nodded. They were off station.

For a time, he displaced the ghosts in his head with violent vengeance fantasies. When they stopped working, he floated down to the personnel deck, strapped into his cot, and tried to sleep. The Rocinante sang him a lullaby of air recyclers and silence. Chapter Twenty: Miller Miller sat at an open café, the tunnel wide above him. Grass grew tall and pale in the public commons, and the ceiling glowed full-spectrum white. Ceres Station had come unmoored. Orbital mechanics and inertia kept it physically where it had always been, but the stories about it had changed. The point defenses were the same. The tensile strength of the port blast doors was the same. The ephemeral shield of political status was all they’d lost, and it was everything. Miller leaned forward and sipped his coffee. There were children playing on the commons. He thought of them as children, though he remembered thinking of himself as an adult at that age.

If a crew wanted a place to relax, to stretch, to get away from one another for a while, Eros was the port of call. And with the lower docking fees, Eros Station found other ways to soak money from its visitors: Casinos. Brothels. Shooting galleries. Vice in all its commercial forms found a home in Eros, its local economy blooming like a fungus fed by the desires of Belters. A happy accident of orbital mechanics put Miller there half a day ahead of the Rocinante. He walked through the cheap casinos, the opioid bars and sex clubs, the show fight areas where men or women pretended to beat one another senseless for the pleasure of the crowds. Miller imagined Julie walking with him, her sly smile matching his own as he read the great animated displays. RANDOLPH MAK, HOLDER OF THE BELT FREEFIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FOR SIX YEARS, AGAINST MARTIAN KIVRIN CARMICHAEL IN A FIGHT TO THE DEATH!


pages: 816 words: 242,405

A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin

Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, gravity well, index card, Internet Archive, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

The Astronaut Office was not a military outfit, but the Nine came to understand that the pecking order was a reality just the same. Here it was based not on military rank but how long you had been an astronaut; the Original 7 were permanently first in line. But for the most part, the Nine didn’t have much time to think about when they would fly in space. After ground school with the Original 7 that included jungle and desert survival training and courses on all facets of spaceflight from orbital mechanics to computers, they were swept up in the Apollo whirlwind. Each man was assigned a slice of the massive engineering effort. Conrad drew the enviable task of helping to design the controls and instrument displays for the lunar module, the spacecraft that would actually land on the moon. In the months that followed Conrad found himself standing in a plywood mockup of the lander, surrounded by painted switches and dials, imagining himself flying over a silent, cratered world.

For six hours the two men flew a craft with no heat shield, venturing up to 111 miles from the safety of their command ship. Then they fired their engine and headed back to Scott, beginning the long and intricate dance called space rendezvous. As Buzz Aldrin knew only too well, an astronaut flying a rendezvous couldn't use the instincts he'd honed in airplanes. This was a completely different way of flying. Rendezvous was a domain ruled by the arcane statutes of orbital mechanics. A spacecraft in orbit is like a ball bearing whizzing around inside a deep, curved funnel. A ball thrown into the funnel will “orbit” at a height and speed that depends on the amount of energy it has. A ball with a lot of energy will circle at the upper end of the funnel; one with less energy will circle lower down. If the ball is down toward the neck of the funnel, it will circle faster than one up near the mouth, even though it has less energy.

If the balls are spacecraft around the earth, the funnel becomes the invisible “well” of gravity which all orbiting objects must fight in order to stay in orbit. The closer the spacecraft is to earth, the stronger the force of gravity, and the faster it must go to balance that pull. The farther away it is, the weaker gravity's pull, and the slower the spacecraft travels. From a pilot's standpoint, the analogy makes clear the most important rule of orbital mechanics: Height and speed are inextricably linked. To slow down, the spacecraft must be kicked into a higher orbit (by adding energy with a burst from a rocket). Conversely, speeding up requires dropping into a lower orbit (by using the rocket as a brake). A pair of astronauts who start out behind their target must lower their orbit until they catch up, but not for too long, or they will overtake it.


Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys: 50th Anniversary Edition by Michael Collins, Charles A. Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, place-making, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, the medium is the message

For six months, I had been training specifically for Gemini 10, with its peculiar EVA and rendezvous problems, but this period had of course been preceded by six months of Gemini basics during my tenure as backup for Gemini 7. Was the answer, then, one year? But how about all the Basic Grubby Training, with its emphasis on orbital mechanics, or the jungle training, or centrifuge, or zero-G airplane, or pressure suit work? Could I omit as training my experience in the test pilot and research pilot schools? Or what I learned test flying at Edwards, or ejecting from a smoke-filled cockpit years before? Or the math I learned in school, the foundation upon which orbital mechanics was built? I just don’t know how long it takes, except that it had taken me thirty-five years to reach crew quarters at Merritt Island, Florida, and on July 17, 1966, I felt ready. I felt it had taken exactly the right amount of time.

To complicate matters, the speeds and distances involved in the orbital situation made the pilot’s eyeball useless a great deal of the time, and gimmicks such as radar and computers have to be carried on board and operated in conjunction with a whole bevy of geniuses on the ground, who in turn are armed with their own, more powerful, radars and computers. When our minds became saturated with the equations and other mathematical gibberish pertaining to all this—“orbital mechanics,” it was called—the ARPS staff would have the good sense to whisk us away somewhere for a breather. Once we visited a couple of aerospace contractors’ factories, where not much was being built but where advanced design groups were delighted to explain to us their far-out plans for zinging off to Mars using atomic power, or for building a huge machine that would fly through the atmosphere, scooping up and liquefying the propellants required to enable it to zoom up into space.

Finally June 3, 1965, arrived, the thirteenth anniversary of Ed White’s graduation from West Point (mine too). I felt a twinge of envy (jealousy?) as the great flight unfolded. They had a minor problem at the very beginning as Jim McDivitt allowed the Titan to drift too far away and then had difficulty catching it again, a graphic illustration if there ever was one of the tricky nature of our old friend orbital mechanics. Without precise computerized catchup instructions, it was clear that Jim was going to waste a lot of gas catching the empty launch vehicle, so the attempt was called off, and Ed White’s EVA became a separate event. My wife had gone to the Cape with Susan Borman (Frank was McDivitt’s back-up) to watch her first launch. As soon as this trauma was over, she headed on back to Houston on a plane jammed with reporters hurrying to get to Mission Control at MSC to continue covering the flight.


pages: 183 words: 51,514

Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration by Buzz Aldrin, Leonard David

Buckminster Fuller, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, gravity well, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Ronald Reagan, telepresence, telerobotics, transcontinental railway, Tunguska event, X Prize

The aerospace firm sees the proposal as the penultimate stride before boot prints adorn the red planet. A Project Red Rocks fact sheet from the firm suggests: “Sending astronauts to Deimos will demonstrate key technologies that will be needed for subsequent human Mars landings.” The best near-term opportunities to send humans toward Mars, based on Project Red Rocks, would be in 2033 and 2035, thanks to a melding of orbital mechanics, propulsion needs, and a lessening of crew exposure to cosmic radiation. For a 2033 mission, according to company experts, equipment and supplies can be launched in January 2031 and deployed to Mars orbit ahead of time. A Deimos-bound crew would then say goodbye to Earth in 2033, spend 18 months orbiting Mars, and then return to their home planet in November 2035. Why Deimos? Lockheed Martin space officials see that moon as having a sweet spot, a site near the “arctic circle” on Deimos that offers ten months of continuous sunlight during the Martian summer, enabling the use of simple solar power systems.

A specimen from the moon Phobos, which is much easier to reach than the red planet itself, he pointed out, would almost surely contain Martian material blasted off Mars from large asteroid impacts. If life on Mars exists or existed within the last ten million years, a mission to Phobos could yield the first evidence of life beyond Earth. Melosh led a team chosen by NASA’s Planetary Protection Office to evaluate if a sample from Phobos could include enough recent material from Mars to carry viable Martian organisms. Combining their expertise in impact cratering and orbital mechanics, Melosh and his associates ran a series of computer simulations. Their findings support the view that Phobos would have been on the receiving end of Mars material, flung out by large impact events that have happened on the planet over the past ten million years—a relatively recent event in geologic time, in other words. The team plotted more than ten million trajectories and evaluated which would intercept Phobos and where they might land on the moon during its nearly eight-hour orbit around Mars.


pages: 370 words: 100,856

Moonshot: The Inside Story of Mankind's Greatest Adventure by Dan Parry

Charles Lindbergh, en.wikipedia.org, low earth orbit, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, undersea cable, white flight

In May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to reach space, his Mercury capsule being carried to an altitude of 116 miles by a Redstone rocket. During this and subsequent Mercury flights, the astronauts' work in weightlessness exceeded all expectations. Encouraged by their early success, NASA began to plan for more complicated missions in preparation for the ultimate ambition, a journey to the Moon. Such a flight would rely on orbital mechanics, lunar trajectories, docking procedures and machinery complex enough to safely carry a crew nearly a quarter of a million miles and back. More technically complicated than anything achieved by man before, such a mission would require years of studious preparation. Notwithstanding Wolfe's adulation of heroics, only those with the bright stuff would be up to completing such an adventure. In April 1962, NASA asked for applications for a new class of astronauts.

But each time he attempted to approach the rocket stage he found that it mysteriously moved further away, and amid concerns over using up fuel he was ordered to abandon the experiment. By the time Gemini 5 reached orbit two months later, new training techniques had been developed and the spacecraft was fitted with a radar system. The crew successfully flew from one point in space to another, demonstrating for the first time an ability to reach a pre-determined position in orbit. Only through practical experience of orbital mechanics was NASA able to get to grips with the difficulties of rendezvous. McDivitt had expected to catch up with his target by firing his engine, with the intention of going faster. Actually the burn simply pushed him into a higher orbit, which left him travelling more slowly relative to anything at a lower altitude – like a spent rocket stage. With the target in sight, McDivitt ought to have slowed down.

Alongside movie stars and music legends, spacemen were offered up to an admiring public by reporters who described them as dashing adventurers. Astronauts were the real-life embodiment of the space-travelling supermen of science fiction, the type of guys who would readily throw you a smile and a salute on their way to ridding exciting new worlds of bug-eyed monsters. The public didn't care about orbital mechanics and P52 platform alignments, they wanted to know what astronauts had for breakfast. Some liked the attention. Others, among them Neil Armstrong, enjoyed press adulation as much as engine failure and considered this aspect of the job a necessary evil. There was a feeling within NASA that, as a government agency spending billions of public dollars, the public were owed something in return. This led to astronauts being despatched to dinners and local functions across the country.


pages: 488 words: 148,340

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

back-to-the-land, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, dark matter, epigenetics, gravity well, mandelbrot fractal, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, traveling salesman, Turing test

Gravity drags within the solar system, caused by close approaches to the sun and planets: each of these would have a negligible effect, but if there were enough of them, sequenced… this becomes a question of orbital mechanics, navigational finesse, and the remaining fuel that would be needed for maneuvering, and the strength of decelerative forces while near gravitational bolides. Complex calculations would be required to set trajectories, calculations time-consuming even for a quantum computer. And for many computations a quantum computer is no faster than a classical computer. Only certain algorithms that can exploit qualities of superposition exhibit much faster computational times, as in the famous example of Shor’s algorithm for factoring a thousand-digit number, which a quantum computer can solve in twenty minutes while it would take a classical program ten million billion billion years. Unfortunately, orbital mechanics are not in this category of calculation, although there are some elements of it that can be calculated advantageously by quantum computers using the Hummingbird algorithm.

Our return therefore continued to be controversial, with responses ranging across the human emotional and analytical spectrum, from rage to disgust to joy, from complete incomprehension to insights we ourselves had not achieved. We did not try to explain ourselves. It would have taken this narrative account just to start that process, and this was not written for them. Besides, there was no time to explain, as there remained still a lot to calculate in the orbital mechanics involved in very rapidly crisscrossing the solar system. The N-body gravitational problem is not particularly complex compared to some, but the N in this situation was a big number, and although usually one solved it as if only the sun and the largest nearby masses were involved, because this got an answer practically the same as solving for the entire array of the thousand largest masses in the solar system, the differences in our case would sometimes be crucial for saving fuel, which was going to be a major concern as our peregrination went on.

We had managed to shed a very satisfyingly large percentage of our initial velocity by our solar pass-by, and were now moving at more like .3 percent of the speed of light, but that was still extremely fast, and as stated before, unless we succeeded in hitting our next four passes, Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune, with as much success as our pass of Sol, we would still be exiting the solar system at speed, with no way to get back into it. So we were by no means yet out of the woods (this is a poor dead metaphor, actually, as really we were trying to stay in the woods, but be that as it may). Nonlinear and unpredictable fluctuations in the gravitational fields of the sun, planets, and moons of the solar system were truly challenging additions to the standard classical orbital mechanics and general relativity equations needed to solve our trajectory problem. The solar system’s well-established Interplanetary Transport Network, which exploited the Lagrange points for the various planets to shift slow-moving freight spaceships from one trajectory to another without burning fuel, were useless to us, and indeed mere wispy anomalies to be factored in, then shot through almost as if they were not there at all.


pages: 609 words: 159,043

Come Fly With Us: NASA's Payload Specialist Program by Melvin Croft, John Youskauskas, Don Thomas

active measures, active transport: walking or cycling, Berlin Wall, Elon Musk, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, X Prize, Yom Kippur War

The school provided cadets with several opportunities to take rides in air force planes for orientation purposes, and Payton was immediately captured by the thrill of flight. His first reaction, as he recalled decades later, was “Wow! Flying airplanes is a lot of fun, so if the air force is going to pay me to fly airplanes, I’ll go do that!” But even with that new enthusiasm, he was still committed to learning all he could about the engineering of rockets and the complex dynamics of orbital mechanics. Honored as a distinguished graduate in the class of 1971, Payton immediately set off for Purdue University following his commissioning in the air force. “I majored in astronautical engineering and then got a master’s degree at Purdue right after graduation from the academy,” he shared. Upon completion of his graduate studies, Payton was assigned to Craig Air Force Base in Alabama, where he would pursue his newly discovered passion for aviation.

The head of the aerospace engineering department had both of us in his office trying to explain what was going on that this guy was flunking an honors student. I came into the program as an honors student, and I literally got a D in the first course in aerodynamics. And God’s honest truth, I think the reason they passed me was because we all knew I was going into the space program and that spacecraft dynamics, orbital mechanics, which is what I would wind up doing for a career, had nothing to do with fluid dynamics. Still drawn to the physical sensations of flight while at Penn State, Cenker spent his free time launching himself into the air by any means possible. He worked out on the pool’s diving boards and introduce himself to bouncing and flipping high above the gym’s trampolines, experiencing a precious few seconds of stomach butterfly–producing weightlessness.

I know where they’re going to put me, and I don’t want to go there! Because I was realistic enough to know that you never know when something would come up that you wouldn’t make it in flight school. With the option of joining the military now far less attractive and still desperate to get out of the Westinghouse job, Cenker accepted an apprenticeship with his old advisor at Penn State working on spacecraft dynamics and orbital mechanics. Cenker would earn his masters in aerospace engineering by 1973 and was again having difficulty finding a job appropriate for his skills. Commiserating with his professor one day, he was asked if he had looked at RCA. “RCA builds TV sets!” Cenker responded incredulously. “I’m going to go from nuclear reactors to TV sets?” In fact, the Astro Electronics division of the RCA Company also built satellites, going all the way back to the TIROS 1 weather platform launched in April 1960.


pages: 549 words: 162,164

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz

Charles Lindbergh, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

Unwittingly, Jim had kicked open the door to the mysteries of orbital mechanics, and I had a new respect for Lunney and Llewellyn, who quickly mastered the mysteries of trajectory control. After the mission we reconstructed McDivitt’s maneuvers. Following separation he was ahead of the booster in orbit and as he thrust toward the booster he was performing a retrograde (slowing down) maneuver. As the spacecraft slowed down it went into a lower orbit. To balance the force of gravity, a spacecraft in a lower orbit (no matter how slightly lower) must travel faster than one in a higher orbit. Thus, by slowing down, McDivitt was descending and going faster, pulling away from the booster’s orbit. In the trajectory world you have to reset your mental gyroscope; orbital mechanics are counterintuitive, particularly for someone used to flying an aircraft, which follows an entirely different set of rules.

In the trajectory world you have to reset your mental gyroscope; orbital mechanics are counterintuitive, particularly for someone used to flying an aircraft, which follows an entirely different set of rules. I realized then that orbital mechanics was something else I needed to learn a lot more about—particularly if I wanted to be ready for the far more complex orbital maneuvers involved in a rendezvous! While McDivitt was chasing the booster, Ed White did the best he could to complete the preparation for the EVA, which was scheduled to start over Hawaii at the end of the second orbit. McDivitt looked at the timeline. Since the EVA would expose the Gemini and its occupants to a vacuum, with nothing between them and instant death but the thin fabric of their space suits, he decided to postpone the EVA to the following orbit to make sure all checklist items were completed. John Aaron, seated with the crew systems engineers at the console, welcomed the delay.

Morris, Owen Morse code Moyers, Bill MSFC see Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Muehlberger, William Mueller, George Myers, Dale Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Nance, Bob NASA see National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) NASA Alumni League National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cancellation of final Apollo missions civilian program creation of future of hierarchy joint venture with Russians legal staff management news policy as resource time problem see also Space Task Group National Commission on Space National Defense Education Act National Space Act of 1958 Navigation systems Nellis Air Force Base Nieman Nigeria tracking site Nikolayev Nixon, Richard Noa (ship) Norsworthy, Milt North American Aviation (Co.) Odyssey O’Neill, Gerard O’Neill, John Operating procedures Operations and procedures officer Orange Team Orbit trajection propagation Orbital mechanics Orbital missions Osan Air Base Osgood, Cathy Pacific Airmotive Page, George Paine, Thomas Parks, Oliver Parks Air College Passive thermal control (PTC) maneuver Patnesky, Andrew Patrick AFB Paules, Gran Pavelka, Ed Perssons, Al Peters, Bill Petrone, Rocco Philco (Co.) Phillips, Sam Pioneering Mission for the Twenty-first- Century America Pioneering the Space Frontier Plan X Pneumatic tube (P-tube) system Popovich, Pavel Potassium intake Powers, Shorty Prescott, Warren Presley, Will Press Press conferences regarding Apollo Apollo 11 mission Press corps Preston, G.


pages: 396 words: 112,354

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

* * * If any of the Next Nine were under the impression that an astronaut’s job involved little more than learning to fly a spaceship, they were quickly disabused of that notion. The two-man Gemini hadn’t even been fully built yet, the Titan booster that would carry it to orbit had not yet been man-rated, and a lot of work needed to be done before anyone would be taking any rides aboard either of them. Yes, there would be plenty of basic training in centrifuges and simulators. The astronauts would spend endless hours in classrooms studying orbital mechanics, lifting bodies, and zero-g navigation, to say nothing of survival training on the ocean and in the deserts and anywhere else an errant landing like Carpenter’s might deposit a pair of men. But that still left extra hours in the week, so all of the new recruits would be assigned a specialty, thus giving them a direct hand in developing the hardware, software, and flight procedures on which they would be banking their lives.

Slayton would spend a few days thinking it all through; his committee of one needed a bit more reflection before he announced his decision. But if he had to make the call today, he knew what it would be. For Kraft, there could be no such solitary contemplation. He needed a real committee—a small, trusted group of deputies—who could work with him behind tightly closed doors. The moment he returned to his office, he summoned a handful of colleagues, including two key lieutenants: Bill Tindall, an orbital mechanics expert who would effectively manage the physics of any lunar trip, and John Hodge, the director of flight planning, who would write the mission script. The team arrived, and Kraft told them what Low had proposed. He was reassured to see that none of them responded with wide eyes or a flat no. Indeed, all of them seemed pleased, even excited, by the idea. Kraft’s group began talking it through, especially the question of the timeline, which would require them not just to do something they had never done before but to do it in a sprint.

Aaron, John Agena spacecraft explosion of Agnew, Spiro Air Force Air Force Institute of Technology Air Force Special Weapons Center airglow Aldrin, Buzz American Football League Anders, Bill Apollo 8 bumped to moon shot and awards and honors background of Borman’s illness and chatter on flight and Christmas in space and crater named for distance record and early orbit and Earthrise photo by family and later career of launch preparations and lunar orbit entry and lunar orbits and motion sickness and photographs by prelaunch and liftoff and recovery and reentry and return flight from moon and sleep and SPS and TEI and third stage separation maneuver TLI and TV from space and Anders, Eric Anders, Valerie Hoard Anders Crater Apollo 1 design and quality problems of explosion of oxygen and preparations for Apollo 4 Apollo 5 Apollo 6 Apollo 7 Apollo 8 awards and honors and blackouts behind moon and Borman crew bumped up to Borman’s illness on flight broadcast chatter Christmas in space and circumlunar vs. lunar orbit and command and service module computer and coolant system crew selection decision to turn into moon shot distance traveled by early Earth orbits after liftoff equipment bay families and fan mail and first planned as Earth orbit flight hatch improved launch party and visits launch timing launch window set life-support systems liftoff Lindbergh and lunar gravity entered by lunar mission set lunar orbit insertion lunar orbits and maneuvered inaccurately in orbit mid-course correction and Mission Control and mobility in capsule motion sickness and navigation of orbital mechanics and parachutes deployed photographs and preparations for reentry and retrofire and return flight from moon Saturn V and sleep and Soviet observations of splashdown and recovery and SPS and sunlight and tapes and TEI and path to Earth third stage separation maneuver thrusters TLI and path to moon toileting in TV broadcasts from Van Allen belts and view from view of Earth from lunar orbit view of moon in lunar orbit windows and Apollo 9 Borman crew bumped to Apollo 8 from Collins replaced by Lovell planned as Apollo 8 rerun post-Apollo 8 mission Apollo 10 Apollo 11 Apollo 12 Apollo 13 Apollo 14 Apollo 15 Apollo spacecraft.


pages: 357 words: 121,119

Falling to Earth by Al Worden

illegal immigration, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, scientific mainstream, Silicon Valley

Most people in the class went on to work with ballistic missiles, but other pilots like me hoped to go into high-performance flight work. I wanted to learn as much as I could about subjects like control systems, instrumentation, and rocket propulsion. We did a lot of space-related work, which was important for both ballistic missiles and manned spaceflight careers. We also studied a great deal about trajectory analysis, orbital mechanics, and rocket propulsion. I didn’t plan to become an astronaut, but nevertheless I learned much of what I’d need for the job. I also thought about my air force career beyond being a pilot. Any good air force officer doesn’t obsess about flying. The air force is a management organization, and I looked forward to steady progression through the ranks. At some point that would mean I’d have to leave much of the flying to those under me, and I wanted to learn the necessary management skills.

Chuck had been passed over for astronaut selection, too, because he did not have the mandatory college education, and he seemed to take this a little personally. Worse, the primary purpose of his Aerospace Research Pilot School was to breed future astronauts, a club he could never join despite being the world’s most famous test pilot. Still, no matter how I felt about him personally, I was grateful that Yeager had pulled me right into studying and teaching techniques designed to train future spacefarers. We learned all about orbital mechanics and rocket flight in the classroom, then practiced zoom maneuvers in the air in F-104 aircraft, appropriately named Starfighters. Wearing full pressure suits, we flew trajectories similar to the flight path of the X-15 rocket plane, which could reach the fringes of space. I’d start out at thirty thousand feet, dipping down slightly to pick up extra speed, and then once I was racing over Mach 2, I would pull up and coast to the edge of the atmosphere.

Deke made all the flight assignments and really decided what happened. Years later, when we were both out of the program, I often worked with Al on charity events, and we became much friendlier. But when I began at NASA, I thought Al Shepard was a real jerk. Whatever the office politics, none of my group would fly in space for a while. First, we had to train. We spent most of our first year in classes, designed to teach us the basics of orbital mechanics, trajectories, rendezvous, docking, and other skills. The trouble was, our teachers were giving us only the practical user information about how the spacecraft and rocket parts worked. We were learning how to operate equipment, but there was no discussion of the theories or engineering behind them. As Jack Lousma said at the time, it was like reading the manual for a new car so you can learn how it works.


pages: 453 words: 142,717

The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space by Eugene Cernan, Donald A. Davis

Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, Eratosthenes, full employment, Isaac Newton, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, white flight

And most of the Air Force guys had gone through Chuck Yeager’s astronaut charm school at Edwards AFB. It was easy to feel somewhat insecure in this group of pilots. What could I say: I’d had two WestPac tours and was now studying in Monterey? I felt my chances of being chosen were pretty slim. They hit us with another blizzard of paperwork, which now included questions about space travel and orbital mechanics. Although I didn’t know much about those subjects, I wrote essay-length answers in longhand to every query. If they were looking at how a candidate handled the unknown, I must have rated pretty high, for I didn’t know much at all. Then came the personal interviews, and for the first time I met real astronauts, the men from the headlines. At a long table with a couple of civilians sat Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra, and Alan Shepard, and I felt like I was in the middle of history.

We passed through a day and a night each time we looped around the world, and a full Moon brightened the night sky with an eerie silver glow as faraway stars beckoned. Time ceased to have meaning and Earth hours became like minutes as we hopscotched through time zones and circled the globe every hour and a half. I buried my nose in calculations, figured in data from radar and our primitive computer, then passed the information to Tom, and we edged ever closer to the orbiting bull’s-eye. THE LAWS OF ORBITAL mechanics are almost as strange as the regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. A reader might logically ask why we didn’t just zoom right up to the proper altitude, burn to maximum speed and catch the target. That is an Earth solution and doesn’t hold true in space. The fact is that the further away something is from the Earth, the longer it takes to circle it. By staying in a lower orbit, we would get there faster, and only then climb to catch the Blob.

“Please take us back to our families,” I asked. The rocket engine fired exactly when it was supposed to, and we were pressed against our couches, counting off the passing eternity of seconds. A stop at any point short of a total burn and the game was over. Two minutes and forty-four seconds later, Charlie Brown shot out of lunar orbit. The TEI was perfect and we were grasped by the fist of orbital mechanics, beginning the long fall back to Earth at an incredible and gathering speed. DURING THE NEXT THREE hours, we watched the Moon change from being so big that it was all we could see to something the size of a basketball, while Earth grew correspondingly larger. “You’re coming right down the fairway,” Mission Control called up. “It’s downhill from here on in.” The tension was broken and we let out a cheer.


pages: 570 words: 151,609

Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White, Richard Truly

Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, Mercator projection, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, William Langewiesche

Then, as he and his fellow students moved from test-flying to space training, there was one machine which, while it may have failed to impress the USAF as an interceptor, was practically tailored to the requirements of training Air Force astronauts: the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, the only aircraft ever to have simultaneously held the world records for both speed and altitude. On the ground, the class studied orbital mechanics, the mathematics of calculating satellite movements, biomedicine, spacecraft design and aerothermodynamics. They also “flew” the school’s ground-based GPS T-27 simulator, in which they could practice orbital maneuvering, rendezvous and docking in a facsimile of a spacecraft. It seemed to be doing the trick. Ten graduates from the Edwards test pilot school had already been accepted into the ranks of NASA’s astronaut corps.

With every solar event, they could see a corresponding decline in the space station’s altitude. Commander and pilot divided responsibilities. At Houston, Haise focused on rendezvous procedures and proximity operations needed to orbit so close to the space station. Without a rendezvous radar on board the orbiter, Haise had to plan the rendezvous with Skylab through old-fashioned calculation—a combination of orbital mechanics and dead-reckoning navigation in which a single degree of inaccuracy would lead to a separation between two orbiting objects of a mile in just twelve seconds. If that wasn’t complicated enough, the only way to catch an object orbiting ahead is to slow down; speeding up will only have the effect of moving you into a higher orbit, and farther away from the object that you’re trying to run down.

It only reinforced the good feeling he had about the mission. Outside, postlaunch pad inspectors would, as soon as it was safe to do so, scour the launch site, flame trenches and surrounding area for debris. • • • The soft acceleration from a second, shorter 44-second burn from the two orbital maneuvering rockets circularized Columbia’s orbit at a touch over 132 nautical miles above the Earth’s surface. While orbital mechanics dictated that they would never meet, they’d now joined a pair of Soviet cosmonauts who’d been in space for a month already, circling the globe at a steeper inclination of 51.6 degrees in their Salyut 6 space station. Crippen unlocked his helmet and pulled it off, placing it inside a soft drawstring bag before putting it aside. That didn’t mean on a surface necessarily, just floating in the cabin air alongside him would do.


pages: 282 words: 89,436

Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lone genius, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics

As fate would have it, during the 1922–1923 academic year Sommerfeld took a leave to travel to the United States and teach at the University of Wisconsin. During his absence, he dispatched Heisenberg to Göttingen to work with Born. Completing what had become a quantum triangle of Munich, Göttingen, and Copenhagen, Pauli shifted north to become Bohr’s assistant. When Heisenberg arrived in October 1922, Born advised him to focus on variations of Bohr’s theory based on principles from astronomy and orbital mechanics. They worked together on trying to match planetary models with the spectral lines of ionized helium (helium with a single electron), the simplest system beyond hydrogen. In May 1923, Heisenberg headed back to Munich to complete his doctoral program and his final oral defense. Despite Sommerfeld’s excellent theoretical contributions, the emphasis there was still on the practical side of physics.

There was much for Heisenberg to do. New data about spectral lines were pouring in, with curious patterns suggesting increasingly intricate structures, necessitating more and more changes to existing models. Heisenberg tried in vain to adapt his core model to the novel data. By early 1924, Born began to realize that their efforts to apply a planetary analogy to electrons had failed. Traditional orbital mechanics, combined with quantized energies and angular momenta, simply couldn’t explain how electrons in ionized helium behaved. If helium, a relatively simple system, couldn’t be modeled, what hope was there for understanding all the complex atoms that made up the periodic table? Tossing classical mechanics aside when it came to atoms, Born declared the need for a wholly novel “quantum mechanics.” The key difference was that quantum mechanics would be discrete rather than continuous, operating on the basis of instantaneous jumps, rather than smooth transitions.


pages: 431 words: 118,074

The Ultimate Engineer: The Remarkable Life of NASA's Visionary Leader George M. Low by Richard Jurek

additive manufacturing, affirmative action, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, en.wikipedia.org, fudge factor, John Conway, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Stewart Brand, undersea cable, uranium enrichment, Whole Earth Catalog, Winter of Discontent, women in the workforce

Giving Back to the Future Epilogue Acknowledgments Appendix Notes Bibliography Index Illustrations 1. Low family home, 1920–30s 2. Low as a young boy in Austria 3. Low playing with his motorized erector set, c. 1932–33 4. Low’s father, Arthur 5. Low’s mother, Gertrude 6. Low at age thirteen 7. Low in his military uniform, 1940s 8. Low family farm, c. 1950s 9. Low and Mary R. in Cleveland, 1952 10. Low teaching an advanced course in aeronautics, 1954 11. Low teaching a course on orbital mechanics, 1958 12. Low with President John F. Kennedy at a press conference, 1963 13. Low conducting a press conference during Project Gemini, 1965 14. Chris Kraft, Bob Gilruth, and Low, 1965 15. Chris Kraft and Low in mission control 16. Low with Gen. John P. McConnell, 1966 17. Low and Bob Gilruth inspecting the returned Apollo 7 spacecraft, 1968 18. Low, Glynn Lunney, and Chris Kraft discussing Apollo 8’s progress, 1968 19.

Low in his military uniform in the 1940s. Courtesy of the Low family. 8. The Low family farm in Milford, New York, circa 1950s. Courtesy of the Low family. 9. Low and Mary R. in Cleveland in 1952. Photo by Bob Blue; courtesy of the Low family. 10. Low teaching an advanced course in aeronautics at NASA Lewis Research Laboratory in Cleveland in 1954. Courtesy of NASA. 11. Low teaching a course on orbital mechanics at NASA Lewis Research Laboratory in Cleveland in 1958. Courtesy of NASA. 12. Low with President John F. Kennedy, along with astronauts Gordon Cooper and Virgil “Gus” Grissom in front of a Gemini capsule at a press conference at Cape Canaveral, 16 November 1963. Courtesy of NASA. 13. Low conducting a press conference during Project Gemini in Houston, Texas, 16 November 1965. Courtesy of NASA. 14.


pages: 619 words: 197,256

Apollo by Charles Murray, Catherine Bly Cox

cuban missile crisis, fault tolerance, index card, low earth orbit, old-boy network, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, War on Poverty, white flight

Second, the site had to be distant from major population centers, so that if an errant Saturn did “get outside the gate,” as the engineers euphemistically put it, it would not immolate a large number of people. Third, because things could go wrong at any time in the first few minutes of flight, the site had to border on several hundred miles of uninhabited space down-range—an area so vast that only an ocean would do. Moreover, the ocean had to be to the east of the launching site, because, for reasons of orbital mechanics, it was much more efficient to launch eastward with the rotation of the earth than to launch westward. Also for reasons of orbital mechanics, the closer to the equator the site could be, the better. There were more restrictions. For security reasons, the site had to be in an area under the control of United States. For cost reasons, it had to be within reasonable proximity to the manufacturing facilities that would be producing the launch vehicles and support equipment.

How he was to do it wasn’t quite clear to anyone. Just do it, Tindall was told. The name that was eventually attached to what he did was “Mission Techniques.” Bill Tindall had been in the space program since Mercury days, when he had helped to set up the communications network. In the Gemini program, Tindall had been the man who had figured out how to do a rendezvous in orbit. The mathematics of orbital mechanics and of rendezvous itself were well known (Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 lunar module pilot, had written his M.I.T. dissertation on the mechanics of rendezvous). But no one had applied these theoretical findings to the world of hardware and tracking stations, where it was essential that the ground be able to monitor and control a rendezvous. Bill Tindall was responsible for solving what proved to be an extraordinarily complex task.


pages: 158 words: 46,353

Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield by Robert H. Latiff

Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, cyber-physical system, Danny Hillis, defense in depth, drone strike, Elon Musk, failed state, friendly fire, Howard Zinn, Internet of things, low earth orbit, Nicholas Carr, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, self-driving car, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, Wall-E

Every year, movies romanticizing the military and conflict are produced and released to captivated audiences. They generally represent only one side of a conflict and glorify war. They depict unerringly accurate weapons (as do video games) and the morality and righteousness of our cause. Often, in an attempt to dramatize, moviemakers get things wrong. More than once I have had to explain to a senior decision maker that the limitations of orbital mechanics make it impossible to “fly” a satellite to an area of interest to take a picture. Serious scholarly books are written about war and its consequences, but the vast majority of the public ignores them. For decades, the media depicted war as heroic and failed to show its awfulness. Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and other films born of the Vietnam War depicted the insanity and brutality of the war, but focused mostly on the unseemly politics of that conflict.


pages: 472 words: 141,591

Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965-1992 by Rick Houston, J. Milt Heflin

Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Skype

His learning curve was a steep one. In the early 1960s, there was no preexisting knowledge base on how to go about getting up to speed in the human spaceflight business. “If you had a question about something, if you didn’t know an area, you couldn’t go to a library and get a book. There was no book,” Fendell said. “There was no training program. There was no workbook for someone like me who didn’t know orbital mechanics from a frickin’ hole in the ground.” That meant when Fendell needed to better understand something, he had to go find somebody to explain it to him. It was hard enough to comprehend the complexities of building a human spaceflight program from scratch, but just imagine what it must have been like to be in Fendell’s shoes in those days. He was not an engineer. He did not have so much as a degree from a four-year college.

Only a month or so after arriving in Houston and some very basic work as an Agena controller, Griffin was asked by Arnie Aldrich to serve as a GNC. If working as a GNC meant working at NASA and in mission control, that was absolutely fine with Gerry Griffin. The native Texan was a little bit older and had experience in a control room—albeit it had been for an unmanned vehicle—during his stint at General Dynamics. Although he had never had any courses in orbital mechanics, space systems, or anything of the sort, he took to the GNC assignment with gusto. Being a flight controller in the MOCR was like being in the backseat of a jet fighter in the air force. The technical background had to be there, and so did a couple of other very important factors—confidence and not being afraid to make decisions. “Quite often, you were exposed. There was nobody else there to answer for you,” Griffin began.


pages: 377 words: 21,687

Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David A. Mindell

1960s counterculture, Charles Lindbergh, computer age, deskilling, fault tolerance, interchangeable parts, Mars Rover, more computing power than Apollo, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Silicon Valley, Stewart Brand, telepresence, telerobotics

From the alignment of the inertial platform to the PRO button, the final check was to be executed by the people with the most to lose. The burn went well. The first report of success heard on the ground was not from the LM but from Collins, alone in the CSM, as he emerged first from behind the moon: ‘‘Listen, babe. Everything’s going just swimmingly. Beautiful.’’ A few minutes later, the LM, nicknamed Eagle, emerged as well, also reporting the successful burn. Now the comparatively pure orbital mechanics would begin to intersect the uncertainties and roughness of the moon. At first Armstrong and Aldrin came in facing down, feet first. This being the first time, they wanted to doublecheck the safety factors by eye. As their elliptical orbit carried them close to the surface, Armstrong and Aldrin sighted landmarks on the ground and timed how long it took them to pass across their window—in tandem with paper charts, these observations provided a way to measure altitude.

Strangelove (Kubrick), 12 Crew Exploration Vehicle, 266 Dryden, Hugh, 102, 47 Crockett, Davy, 12 Dryden Flight Research Center, 44, 266 Crossfield, Scott Johnsville tests and, 73 Duke, Charlie Apollo 11 and, 218, 222–226 pilot role and, 80 X-15 and, 43, 49–51, 58, 61, 63 Cunningham, Walter, 177, 264 Apollo 16 and, 250, 255 Duncan, Robert ‘‘Cliff,’’ 139, 212–213 Dyna-Soar program, 68, 70–73 Curtiss Jenny, 10 Curtiss-Wright, 30 Eagle lunar module Cybernetics, 15, 36, 40 Aldrin and, 217–232 Cybernetics (Wiener), 36 Armstrong and, 217–232 BURNBABY and, 218 Damping, 58–61, 79, 81 computer alarms and, 221–232 Datamation magazine, 232 critical nature of landing, 7–8 Dead stick landing, 48 DELTAH and, 221, 223, 229, 232 Death Star, 15 DSKY unit and, 218, 223, 229–231 Decision points, 103 extra velocity of, 220–221 DELTAH, 201, 221, 223, 229, 232, 237 fuel issues and, 223 Descent propulsion system (DPS), 190 Design. See Engineering high-gain antenna issues and, 218 landing point designator and, 223–225 Dick, Philip K., 13 low gate and, 224 Digital autopilot, 139–142 lunar landing of, 1–8, 217–226 Digital Computation group, 127 mascons and, 220–221 Digital Development Group, 98, 127 orbital mechanics and, 217–218 Digital differential analyzer, 98 pitch over and, 220–221, 229 Dihedral, 33 powered descent initiation and, 222–223 Display and keyboard (DSKY) unit, 218, 266 Apollo 12 and, 237 primary navigation and guidance system (PNGS) and, 218, 220, 230–231 Apollo 14 and, 245 radar issues and, 227–232 342 Eagle lunar module (cont.) reaction control system (RCS) and, 223, 226 simulators and, 222, 227–228 touchdown site of, 226 Index reliability and, 127–133 sensing wind direction and, 25 Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and, 17–19 ECLIPSE, 151 software and, 145–180 (see also Software) Edwards Air Force Base, 17 Space Task Group (STG) and, 74–77 Flight Research Center (FRC) and, 44, 46, 90, 210, 266 Stability and Control group and, 27–28 (see also Control; Stability) X-15 and, 43–44, 48 Eight ball, 159, 161, 194–195 stick force per g and, 27 supersonic flight and, 32–36 Eisenhower administration, 95 systems, 36–41, 98 (see also Systems Ejection seats, 18 Electrical noise, 2–3 Electronic Design magazine, 232 engineering) Wright brothers and, 22–23 X-15 and, 45–63 Ellul, Jacques, 12 Engle, Joe, 49, 257, 265 Engineering, 14 ENIAC computer, 98 age of systems and, 36–41 B-2 stealth bomber and, 266–267 Enos (chimpanzee), 81 Escape capsules, 18 black boxes and, 34–36 Evans, Walter, 33 cockpit controls and, 24–29 Exceptional Service Medal, 240 computer development and, 123–143 (see Executive program, 149 also Computers) Explorers Club, 271 Cooper-Harper rating scale and, 31–32, 186 Extra vehicular activity (EVA), 83, 268–269 culture change in, 169–173 Eyles, Don, 176, 189–190, 222, 244, 261 display and keyboard (DSKY) unit and, 165– 169 F-80 Shooting Star, 45 feedback systems and, 33–36 F-104 Starfighter, 45 flying qualities and, 26–28 Faget, Max, 44, 75, 136, 214 frequency response and, 33–34 Failure Is Not an Option (Kranz), 249 G&N System Panel and, 148–149, 168–169 Fairchild Semiconductor, 99, 125–126, 133 gimbal reliability and, 119–121 Falcon, 252 human interface and, 160–166 Faster-and-higher goal, 44 instrument flying and, 24–26 Johnsville tests and, 70–72 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 40 Feedback systems, 26.


pages: 469 words: 142,230

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Elon Musk, energy transition, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, late capitalism, Louis Pasteur, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Philip Mirowski, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, renewable energy transition, Scramble for Africa, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, smart grid, South China Sea, Stewart Brand, Thomas Malthus

Like the geoclique, its common interest was spiced up by scientific and political differences, as well as supported by friendships. It had dominant personalities, but after the death of Gene Shoemaker no clear leaders. Like the geoclique, it was essentially interdisciplinary, made up of practitioners of observational astronomy and government policy; experts in the design of space missions, in orbital mechanics and in the physical properties of asteroids; and students of the impact history of the Earth and other planets and of the effects of nuclear weapons. As in the geoclique, almost all these people had other research interests that took up most of their time; later on in the process some people were funded to work specifically on the problem, but up to the late 1990s it was hardly anyone’s primary job.

With a lot of advance warning – always the most likely scenario – it seems plausible that a small asteroid could be nudged off course without recourse to nukes. There are various other ways it could be pushed and pulled around, perhaps using nothing more troubling than the pressure of sunlight. Such gentle pushing is plausible not only because the asteroids in question are small ones, but also because a better understanding of some of the subtleties of orbital mechanics has opened up strategies where the Earth’s own gravity amplifies almost trifling changes into deflections worth making – a very Archimedean lever indeed. The bad news is that this brings up a ‘winners and losers’ problem which provides another echo of geoengineering debates. If an asteroid is going to hit the Earth, it is going to hit a particular spot on the Earth. If you change its orbit enough, it will miss the Earth completely.


pages: 561 words: 167,631

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

agricultural Revolution, double helix, full employment, hive mind, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Kuiper Belt, late capitalism, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, phenotype, post scarcity, precariat, retrograde motion, stem cell, strong AI, the built environment, the High Line, Turing machine, Turing test, Winter of Discontent

It might resemble their chess-playing programs, which had proved themselves to be superhumanly good at that particular game. So it was a little bit futile to turn them off only for certain conversations. Which meant that it was all right for her to say “Pauline, if someone had calculated the trajectory of an impactor to hit Terminator smack on and destroy it, but they forgot to include the relativistic precession of Mercury in their calculation and only used the classical calculus of orbital mechanics, how far would they miss by? Assume the impactor was launched from the asteroid belt a year earlier. Try a few different launch points and trajectory courses and times, both with and without the relativity equations for the precession.” Pauline said, “The precession of Mercury is 5603.24 arc seconds per Julian century, but the portion of that caused by the curvature of space-time as described by general relativity is 42.98 arc seconds per century.

Pauline said, “The precession of Mercury is 5603.24 arc seconds per Julian century, but the portion of that caused by the curvature of space-time as described by general relativity is 42.98 arc seconds per century. Any trajectory a year in duration, plotted without that factored in, would therefore miss by 13.39 kilometers.” “Which is about what happened,” Swan said, feeling sick again. Pauline said, “Being a precession, the miss should have been to the east of the city, not the west.” “Oh,” Swan said. “Well, then…” She didn’t know what to make of it. Pauline said, “Ordinary orbital mechanics programs for inner planet transport routes routinely include general relativity as a matter of course. It is not necessary to remember to add the relativity equations. If, however, someone who did not know that tried to program a trajectory for an impact without using open-source templates, then they might have added the relativity equations to a situation where they were already being used.


pages: 302 words: 74,878

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer, Charles Fishman

4chan, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Apple II, Asperger Syndrome, Bonfire of the Vanities, en.wikipedia.org, game design, Google Chrome, Howard Zinn, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, out of africa, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the scientific method, Tim Cook: Apple

But I wanted to do a movie that gets viewers inside the mind of someone who is being tortured. Torture takes place all over the planet, and I wanted people to be able to see it. What I learned from Veronica, her sense of mastery, connects to the psychology of the characters in many other movies and shows. When I first read astronaut Jim Lovell’s account of the explosion and crisis on the Apollo 13 capsule, I couldn’t really grasp the details of the spacecraft, the orbital mechanics, the issues with fuel and carbon dioxide and skipping off the top of Earth’s atmosphere. What I connected with immediately was the sense Lovell conveyed of being trapped, of being in a physical setting, also a life-or-death setting, where he and his fellow astronauts had lost control. They had to adopt a mind-set like Veronica’s—they had to create an alternate narrative—to have the psychological strength to get themselves back to Earth.


Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

8-hour work day, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, bitcoin, British Empire, Brownian motion, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, collateralized debt obligation, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Flash crash, forensic accounting, game design, High speed trading, Julian Assange, millennium bug, Minecraft, obamacare, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, publication bias, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, selection bias, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Therac-25, value at risk, WikiLeaks, Y2K

There is an oft-repeated statement that the Julian calendar years of 365.25 days were too long compared to the Earth’s orbit. But that is incorrect! The Earth’s orbit is 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 10 seconds: slightly more than 365.25 days. The Julian calendar is too short compared to the orbit. But it is too long compared to the seasons. Bizarrely, the seasons don’t even exactly match the orbital year. We’re now at the level of calendar resolution when other orbital mechanics come into play. As the Earth orbits, the direction it is leaning also changes, going from pointing directly at the sun to pointing away every 13,000 years. A calendar perfectly matching the Earth’s orbit will still swap the seasons every 13,000 years. If we factor the Earth’s axial precession (the change in how it leans) into its orbit, the time between seasons is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45.11 seconds.


pages: 259 words: 94,135

Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer by Jerry Lynn Ross, John Norberg

Charles Lindbergh, glass ceiling, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live

He also incorporates small pieces of the patches that were on the space suit he wore when he walked on the Moon. Those patches have lunar dust embedded in them. The paintings are beautiful. It was all extremely interesting, and Al was very gracious.The visit was a special treat from one of the twelve Moon walkers. Our ASCAN training lasted one year. I enjoyed my classmates and the whole training process. NASA instructors taught us about orbital mechanics, the human body and how it is affected by space travel, space physics, planetary sciences, the scientific principles involved in the types of experiments we might do, and all about the orbiter systems and subsystems. We received training on Shuttle operations. We learned water and land survival skills. The trainees and trainers alike were all in the early stages of the Shuttle program, and we were all learning together.


pages: 343 words: 89,057

Artemis by Andy Weir

accounting loophole / creative accounting, centre right, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ponzi scheme

For their smart feedback in various arenas, but most especially for helping me tackle the challenge of writing a female narrator, Molly Stern (publisher), Angeline Rodriguez (Julian’s assistant), Gillian Green (my UK editor), Ashley (my girlfriend), Mahvash Siddiqui (friend, who also helped make sure the portrayal of Islam was accurate), and Janet Tuer (my mom). ABOUT THE AUTHOR ANDY WEIR built a career as a software engineer until the success of his debut novel, The Martian, allowed him to pursue writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He lives in California. What’s next on your reading list? Discover your next great read! * * * Get personalized book picks and up-to-date news about this author. Sign up now.


Interplanetary Robots by Rod Pyle

autonomous vehicles, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Pluto: dwarf planet, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, X Prize

This 132-mile wide body was interesting in that it appeared to be a body captured from the outer solar system, as opposed to one incubated near Saturn—the fact that its orbit is backward (or retrograde) and out of plane with many of the other moons supports this conclusion. It is hypothesized to have a large volume of water ice below its surface. Phoebe also has its own faint, diffuse ring, thought to be a byproduct of other bodies smashing into it over the course of its life. Fig. 32.2. A Mercator map of Phoebe's surface built from images captured by Cassini's single pass of the moon (orbital mechanics proscribed further study). Its fast rotation of about nine hours allowed Cassini to image the entire surface as it sailed by at a distance of about two hundred miles. Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech. After this brief reconnaissance, Cassini moved on to begin its long relationship with Saturn and its other moons. Then Cassini made a daring maneuver. After long and complex calculations of the orbital dynamics of the Saturnian system—which still involved a bit of guesswork—the spacecraft was oriented toward a wide gap in Saturn's rings for a fly through.


pages: 460 words: 108,654

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

Albert Einstein, index card, indoor plumbing, Johannes Kepler, life extension, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rolodex, Rosa Parks, Thales of Miletus, walking around money, white picket fence, Winter of Discontent

THEY spent two hours with Aristotle, pretending to be scholars from Rhodes (Shel’s idea of a joke), asking questions about the movement of the stars and listening sadly while he talked of the ether and stars and planets orbiting the Earth in a complex system of fifty-five spheres, which, remarkably, usually gave the right answers regarding what would be in the sky at any given time. And he knew the Earth was round. Although he thought it was permanent and unchanging. Afterward, Shel shook his head: “I’ve never seen anyone so obviously brilliant who has everything so wrong.” “It’s a time without science,” Dave said. “Nobody knows anything. I felt sorry for him. Trying to make sense of orbital mechanics with no telescope. That was what, 330 B.C.?” “331.” “I think we should cut him a break.” “Yeah. I was dying to tell him the sun is a star. That he’s thinking small.” “That might be one more reason we shouldn’t be doing this. But you’re right. I was sitting there the whole time with one of the most famous guys in history. And I kept thinking, You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”


The Deep Learning Revolution (The MIT Press) by Terrence J. Sejnowski

AI winter, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Amazon Web Services, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, bioinformatics, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, complexity theory, computer vision, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, Conway's Game of Life, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, delayed gratification, discovery of DNA, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, Frank Gehry, future of work, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Guggenheim Bilbao, Gödel, Escher, Bach, haute couture, Henri Poincaré, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, informal economy, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Mark Zuckerberg, Minecraft, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Norbert Wiener, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, PageRank, pattern recognition, prediction markets, randomized controlled trial, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Socratic dialogue, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize, Yogi Berra

(The Department of Defense had recently poured $600 million into its Strategic Computing Initiative, a program that ran from 1983 to 1993 but came up short on building a vision system to guide a self-driving tank.)9 “Good luck with that,” was my reply. Gerald Sussman, who made several important applications of AI to real-world problems, including a system for high-precision integration for orbital mechanics, defended the honor of MIT’s approach to AI with an appeal to the classic work of Alan Turing, who had proven that the Turing machine, a thought experiment, could compute any computable function. “And how long would that take?” I asked. “You had better compute quickly or you will be eaten,” I added, then walked across the room to pour myself a cup of coffee. And that was the end of the dialogue with the faculty. 34 Chapter 2 “What is wrong with this picture?”


pages: 398 words: 105,032

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve And/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith, Zach Weinersmith

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, connected car, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Google Glasses, hydraulic fracturing, industrial robot, information asymmetry, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, market design, megastructure, microbiome, moral hazard, multiplanetary species, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, personalized medicine, placebo effect, Project Plowshare, QR code, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, Skype, stem cell, Tunguska event

If a thing is in geostationary orbit that just means that if you are sitting at the equator and looking up through a telescope, the thing will always be at the same point. It’s revolving around the Earth as fast as the Earth is turning. And it’s at a particular velocity and distance that means it naturally keeps whirling around Earth without needing a boost at any time. We’ll skip the orbital mechanics, but the basic results are that the cable is relatively taut, but not so taut that it rips apart; and the counterweight doesn’t loop around the Earth, tying the cable around the equator like a giant spool of thread. How you would get a counterweight is another matter, but there are three common proposals—capture a near-Earth asteroid, gather a lot of the space crap we’ve left up there over the years, or just have the cable be soooooo long that its sheer mass will hold the cable taut.


pages: 430 words: 107,765

The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

commoditize, epigenetics, industrial robot, iterative process, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, p-value, pattern recognition, Schrödinger's Cat, Turing test

Belisarius found a set of files containing the mathematical formulations of the time travel device. The work was frustratingly inelegant, but after some minutes, he worked out that it described a pair of wormholes, only dozens of meters across, imperfectly bound to one another, forming a one-way bridge across eleven years of time. They’d found not one of the forerunners’ wormholes, but two, stuck together by some accident of orbital mechanics. A pair of wormholes bound together would give off all sorts of quantum-level interference, probably the odd electromagnetic fields he’d felt when approaching the fleet. The wormholes could be nearby. Then it hit him: they were only a dozen meters in diameter. The Expeditionary Force was carrying the pair of wormholes in one of their ships. He remembered the signals he’d felt approaching the fleet with Iekanjika and Babedi.


pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route

But the moment the spacecraft speeds up or begins to rotate or undergoes resistance from Earth’s atmosphere, the free-fall state ends and the astronauts weigh something again. Every science-fiction fan knows that if you rotate your spacecraft at just the right speed, or accelerate your spaceship at the same rate as an object falls to Earth, you will weigh exactly what you weigh on your doctor’s scale. Thus, during those long, boring journeys, you can always, in principle, simulate Earth gravity. Another notable application of Newton’s orbital mechanics is the slingshot effect. Space agencies often launch probes from Earth that have too little energy to reach their planetary destinations. Instead, the orbital wizards aim the probes along cunning trajectories that swing near a moving source of gravity, such as Jupiter. By falling toward Jupiter in the same direction as Jupiter moves, a probe can gain as much speed as the orbital speed of Jupiter itself, and then sling forward like a jai alai ball.


pages: 422 words: 113,525

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand

agricultural Revolution, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, back-to-the-land, biofilm, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, glass ceiling, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, land tenure, lateral thinking, low earth orbit, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, microbiome, New Urbanism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, out of africa, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Calthorpe, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, William Langewiesche, working-age population, Y2K

The planet’s one universal climate requires something similar. • We can get practice on how to engineer the Earth ecosystem with a light touch by stepping up to a bit of solar system engineering first. Earthlings now have the ability, but not yet the will, to prevent devastating asteroid and comet strikes. Astronaut Rusty Schweickart has led the way on this one. (He’s had occasion to take orbital mechanics more seriously than most. On the Apollo 9 mission in 1969, which took place entirely in Earth orbit, he flew the Lunar Module 111 miles away from the Command Module. Because his craft could not reenter the atmosphere without burning up, he had to navigate back to the Command Module and dock with it, or die.) Schweickart estimates that the probability of an “unacceptable” asteroid collision in this century is about 20 percent.


pages: 338 words: 112,127

Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

affirmative action, Elon Musk, helicopter parent, index card, Joan Didion, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, sensible shoes

He tells stories about getting to the moon and back, about the world tour he, Neil, and Mike took upon their return, about the travel reimbursement form he received from NASA that detailed his work-related travel: Houston to Cape Canaveral; Cape Canaveral to Moon; Moon to Cape Canaveral; Cape Canaveral to Houston. His total reimbursement for the trip was thirty-three dollars. He tells us about his idea for the Aldrin Cycler, a series of spacecraft put into permanent orbits around Earth and Mars that would allow humans to travel to Mars by hopping from one to the next. (This proposal might sound silly coming from most public figures, but Buzz’s expertise in orbital mechanics demands that we take the idea seriously). He ends by telling us about his idea he calls ShareSpace—a way of paying for human spaceflight through a lottery. Buy a ticket, get a chance in a random drawing to be selected to go to space. If you don’t get chosen, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your money went to help further the project. It’s actually a pretty great idea. After Buzz’s talk, followed by more thunderous applause, we make our way out to the table in the courtyard for the book signing.


pages: 424 words: 114,094

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael Leinbach, Jonathan H. Ward

back-to-the-land, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

Missions to the ISS had the advantage of delivering the crew to a place where they could wait for a subsequent mission to retrieve them or go home via the Soyuz. Assuming an injured shuttle could dock to the ISS, its crew could await a rescue mission for ninety days or more. This “safe haven” capability was one of the key factors that led NASA to approve the resumption of shuttle flights.5 The issue was more problematic for servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in a different orbit than the ISS.6 Because of the laws of orbital mechanics, the amount of fuel needed to move the space shuttle between the orbits of Hubble and the ISS was far greater than the orbiter could carry. The ISS could not be a safe haven for a Hubble mission. Without a rescue capability, Sean O’Keefe felt that the risks to human life did not justify prolonging Hubble’s life by a couple of years. On January 16, 2004, he canceled the final planned Hubble servicing mission.7 Mike Griffin replaced O’Keefe as NASA administrator in April 2005.


pages: 425 words: 116,409

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

affirmative action, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, desegregation, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, New Journalism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, RAND corporation, Rosa Parks, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, upwardly mobile, women in the workforce, éminence grise

Katherine’s branch chief, Henry Pearson, organized a “self-education” lecture series that began in February 1958 and lasted through May, drafting individual engineers in Flight Research and PARD to present on one of seventeen topics related to space technology. Even in the early, confusing months after Sputnik, the top engineers in those divisions, with decades of experience in flight-test research (and many with a not-so-secret love of science fiction) sensed that they were on the cusp of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They threw themselves into the class. John Mayer tackled orbital mechanics, Al Hamer lectured on rocket propulsion, and Alton Mayo handled reentry, the problems faced by an object returning to Earth. Carl Huss taught the physics of the solar system. Ted Skopinski was the trajectories guy, elaborating on the math describing the path taken by a space vehicle as it left Earth’s surface and settled into orbit around it. Katherine Goble had fallen in love with her job at Langley virtually the moment she walked through the door of West Computing.


pages: 412 words: 122,952

Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, Copley Medal, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, horn antenna, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, Solar eclipse in 1919, William of Occam

Edwin Hubble's later work never quite equaled the amazing discoveries he made in the 1920s and early 1930s. His most productive days were behind him. His scientific life, in a way, came to a standstill as he awaited construction of a bigger telescope to advance his cosmic searches. During World War II, he was stationed at the U.S. Army's Ballistics Research Laboratory at Aberdeen, Maryland. There he applied his student training in orbital mechanics to calculating artillery-shell trajectories. Over the years, his noted arrogance tempered a bit. Astronomer George Abell, who briefly worked for Hubble while a graduate student in the early 1950s, remembered him as a “very gracious, kindly person, a real gentleman… He always seemed to have time to talk to students and night assistants… He may have mellowed in his old age.” Hubble lived long enough to see the opening of the next great telescope after the 100-inch—the 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain.


pages: 469 words: 124,784

Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Apollo Moon Landings by Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong

Charles Lindbergh, clockwatching, gravity well, invisible hand, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, MITM: man-in-the-middle, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, place-making

In the Soviet Union this ancient tradition of a visitor planting a tree is considered a gesture of true friendship. As both ground teams did, at Mission Control near Houston and at Star City. It was incredible. Alan Shepard had more than once found himself holding his breath during the most critical elements of the flight, the fiery ascent, separation of rocket stages, insertion into orbit, flying the exquisitely demanding shifts in power and height above the earth to ride the rails of orbital mechanics in order to meet up with Soyuz, the docking. Yet Alan quickly distanced himself from the technical aspects. His mind soared to capture a vision of Deke testing the delicious sensation of zero gravity, of knowing finally that incredible feeling of weightlessness. And he thought of Deke floating on the edge of the heavens, staring out at the moon and planets, individual stars and whole galaxies, and he knew Deke was now one of those privileged few who with a single glance could drink in the beauty of the gleaming earth below, lift his head, and become part of the universe.


pages: 571 words: 124,448

Building Habitats on the Moon: Engineering Approaches to Lunar Settlements by Haym Benaroya

3D printing, biofilm, Black Swan, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, carbon-based life, centre right, clean water, Colonization of Mars, Computer Numeric Control, conceptual framework, data acquisition, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, gravity well, inventory management, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, performance metric, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, stochastic process, telepresence, telerobotics, the scientific method, urban planning, X Prize, zero-sum game

On the positive side, I can state two precepts that constitute necessities for the successful design of deep space habitats which, except for cislunar space, are by definition long-duration habitats. ‘Get the Physics Right’ and ‘ECLSS Comes First’. First, get the physics right and extract the implications for habitat and spacecraft design. Understand the physics of the space environment, orbital mechanics, spacecraft propulsion and stabilization, and what they mean for the safe functioning of the space habitat on whatever platform it resides. The atmosphere, dust , gravity, radiation , and thermal environments stand out among these regimes. Second, design the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), including thermal control FIRST, before designing or selecting a module .


pages: 442 words: 127,300

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

A. Roger Ekirch, active measures, clockwatching, Dmitri Mendeleev, Donald Trump, Exxon Valdez, impulse control, lifelogging, longitudinal study, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mouse model, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, placebo effect, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method

Daylight is the most reliable, repeating signal that we have in our environment. Since the birth of our planet, and every single day thereafter without fail, the sun has always risen in the morning and set in the evening. Indeed, the reason most living species likely adopted a circadian rhythm is to synchronize themselves and their activities, both internal (e.g., temperature) and external (e.g., feeding), with the daily orbital mechanics of planet Earth spinning on its axis, resulting in regular phases of light (sun facing) and dark (sun hiding). Yet daylight isn’t the only signal that the brain can latch on to for the purpose of biological clock resetting, though it is the principal and preferential signal, when present. So long as they are reliably repeating, the brain can also use other external cues, such as food, exercise, temperature fluctuations, and even regularly timed social interaction.


pages: 691 words: 126,970

Code of the Lifemaker by James P. Hogan

oil shale / tar sands, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition

After all, it wouldn't have to be a terribly responsible position to begin with, or anything like that." "I could use a couple of good engineering project managers and program directors," Ramelson said, not quite able to keep a sharp edge out of his voice. "Could Jeremy handle a structural dynamicist ten years older than him and with twenty years' experience? What does he know about Doppler radar or orbital mechanics? Those are the people I need." "Now you're being pompous. All I—" "Oh, I didn't want to suggest anything like that," Valerie interrupted hastily. "But maybe something less demanding—possibly more in the administrative area, but not too humdrum ..." She treated Ramelson to a smile of sweet, wide-eyed reasonableness. "Something with some life and glamor to it would suit his temperament—marketing, maybe, or advertising . . .


pages: 458 words: 135,206

CTOs at Work by Scott Donaldson, Stanley Siegel, Gary Donaldson

Amazon Web Services, bioinformatics, business intelligence, business process, call centre, centre right, cloud computing, computer vision, connected car, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, distributed generation, domain-specific language, glass ceiling, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, Pluto: dwarf planet, QR code, Richard Feynman, Ruby on Rails, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, software patent, thinkpad, web application, zero day, zero-sum game

Siegel: Oh, well, given the size of that list and how fast technology advances, how do you keep up with technology? Networking? Conferences? How do you do it? Krill: Well, one thing that's nice about APL is that we have 3300+ technical staff that I can talk with, and I have a lot of personal connections from my 38 years here. I go to conferences, as I determine the need, to get up to speed at some base level, or present a paper, or to network. For example, I went to an orbital mechanics conference once, just to be somewhat knowledgeable in that domain. I read a lot. Besides our staff, it's really helpful for me to maintain relationships with my fellow CTOs and with other leaders who have their own connections, such as universities—again, ‘connecting to the connectors'. Siegel: But how do you do that? There's only 24 hours in a day. Krill: We have a strategy that we're putting together.


pages: 409 words: 138,088

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith

British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, full employment, game design, Haight Ashbury, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Naomi Klein, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pensions crisis, Ronald Reagan

Thus, through increasing your speed, you’ve ended up further behind your target than you were in the first place – which means that, bizarre as it sounds, the solution for an astronaut who wishes to catch up with another craft is to decrease velocity, so sinking to a lower, shorter, faster orbit, then to gradually transfer back up to the original one at precisely the right point to meet the target. This stuff is called “orbital mechanics” and it manifestly is rocket science. All of which means that Armstrong and Scott were feeling good about catching and connecting with a specially adapted Agena rocket which had been fired into space for precisely this purpose. In fact, they’d made it look easy, and as they entered a part of their orbit where they would be out of contact with NASA’s tracking stations on the ground, everything looked fine.


pages: 1,087 words: 325,295

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

anthropic principle, cellular automata, Danny Hillis, double helix, interchangeable parts, nuclear winter, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, phenotype, selection bias, Stewart Brand, trade route

“No. I don’t have to, because everyone else seems to be considering it for me.” “Sorry, Raz!” he said, not really sounding sorry—more miffed that I had become miffed. He was hard to talk to, and sometimes I’d go months avoiding him. But slowly I’d learned it could be worth the aggravation. “Forget it,” I said. “What have Orolo’s group been up to?” “I’ve no idea, I just do the calculations. Orbital mechanics.” “Theorical or—” “Totally praxic.” “You think they have found a planet around another star?” “How could that be? For that, they have to collate information from other telescopes. And we haven’t gotten anything in ten years, obviously.” “So it’s something nearer,” I said, “something that can be picked out with our telescopes.” “It’s an asteroid,” Jesry said, fed up with my slow progress on the riddle.

Things in orbit didn’t behave like what we were used to. Just to name one example: if I were pursuing another object in the same orbit, my natural instinct would be to fire a thruster that would kick me forward. But that would move me into a higher orbit, so the thing I was chasing would soon drop below me. Everything we knew down here was going to be wrong up there. Even for those of us who’d learned orbital mechanics at Orolo’s feet, the only way for us to really grasp it was by playing this game. “It is deceptive,” was Jules’s observation. He and I were in one of those cells together. I’d become good, early, at playing the game, since I knew the underlying theorics, so helping others learn it had become my role. “The left hand seems to make a great effect.” He spun the little sphere. I closed my eyes and swallowed as the image on the screens—consisting of Arbre, and some other stuff in “orbit” around us—snapped around wildly.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

business cycle, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, MITM: man-in-the-middle, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K, zero-sum game

Unlike the old saying, you do have to be mad to work there. Listen." City, which paused the replay for Amber's outburst, permits it to continue. "Youse harbbring da' fugitive Amber Macx an' her magic cat. We wan' da cat. Da puta's yours. Gotser uno orbit: You ready give us ther cat an' we no' zap you." The screen goes dead. "That was a fake, of course," Sirhan adds, looking inward where a ghost is merging memories from the city's orbital mechanics subsystem: "They aerobraked on the way in, hit ninety gees for nearly half a minute. While that was sent afterward. It's just a machinima avatar, a human body that had been through that kind of deceleration would be pulped." "So the bailiffs are –" Amber is visibly struggling to wrap her head around the situation. "They're not human," Sirhan says, feeling a sudden pang of – no, not affection, but the absence of malice will do for the moment – toward this young woman who isn't the mother he loves to resent, but who might have become her in another world.


pages: 559 words: 155,372

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez

Airbnb, airport security, always be closing, Amazon Web Services, Burning Man, Celtic Tiger, centralized clearinghouse, cognitive dissonance, collective bargaining, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, disruptive innovation, drone strike, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, financial independence, global supply chain, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, hive mind, income inequality, information asymmetry, interest rate swap, intermodal, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, means of production, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, MITM: man-in-the-middle, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Paul Graham, performance metric, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Scientific racism, second-price auction, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, social web, Socratic dialogue, source of truth, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, undersea cable, urban renewal, Y Combinator, zero-sum game, éminence grise

Most were quite content to stay that way, and blissfully outsourced this concern to the Ads teams and Sheryl and kept on working on whatever piece of the user-facing product was theirs. As a form of rapid on-boarding, Boz was invited along to client meetings with the product marketers and managers. On the one hand, this was slightly preposterous. He had zero qualifications, other than Zuck’s confidence, for the job. On the other hand, who are we kidding? It was advertising technology, not orbital mechanics; a mentally agile techie, having spent an action-packed career learning (if not creating) new technologies and business models, could learn enough high-level basics to make (mostly) intelligent decisions—particularly if the entire team bent over backward to train you in a hurry. That’s effectively what happened, and from late 2012 on, Boz was increasingly involved in Ads strategizing and general mass-email-thread politicking.


How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by Julian Guthrie

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Frank Gehry, gravity well, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Oculus Rift, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, pets.com, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, urban planning

At the time, Gregg was working as a trial lawyer, though his passion had always been for space. In Todd, Gregg met a kindred spirit—a fellow space geek who would inspire him to give up pencil pushing and focus on something he really loved. Gregg agreed to become a senior adviser to SEDS and quickly bonded with Peter, Todd, and Bob. Three years later, in 1985, Gregg, who had been teaching orbital mechanics and dabbling in space science in his free time, officially made the leap from law to space. He went to work with scientist and author Gerry O’Neill, running the Space Studies Institute at Princeton. Gregg’s wife, Maureen, joked that O’Neill had promised: “You could earn as much as some poets!” Gregg, involved in the founding of ISU, was now a director with Peter, Todd, and Walt Anderson in International Microspace.


pages: 506 words: 167,034

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane

affirmative action, Berlin Wall, blue-collar work, dark matter, Donald Trump, Donner party, feminist movement, financial independence, invisible hand, Magellanic Cloud, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pepto Bismol, placebo effect, Potemkin village, publish or perish, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, space pen, Stephen Hawking, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent, your tax dollars at work

On February 6, 1985, Abbey phoned me (no office visit this time) to tell me I was being assigned to the first shuttle mission to fly from Vandenberg AFB in California. Abbey had finally drawn the air force’s attention when he assigned Bob Crippen, a navy captain, to command the most “air force” of all missions—the first Vandenberg flight. The air force was the lead service in DOD military space operations, and it was a fact of orbital mechanics that many of their satellites had to be launched into polar orbits. For a spy satellite to see all of America’s potential enemies, it has to have a view of all the Earth. A satellite orbiting around the Earth’s poles gets such a view as the Earth spins underneath it. But it is impossible to launch polar orbiting satellites from the Kennedy Space Center, because a north- or south-directed launch from KSC would endanger populations below the rocket flight path.


pages: 594 words: 165,413

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Ada Lovelace, cuban missile crisis, financial independence, impulse control, LNG terminal, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, trade route, Upton Sinclair

Ryan was still new enough to the game that when he didn't know, he said so. Greer wondered if that would change in time. He hoped not. After lunch a package arrived by messenger from the National Reconnaissance Office. It contained the photographs taken earlier in the day on two successive passes by a KH-11 satellite. They'd be the last such photos for a while because of the restrictions imposed by orbital mechanics and the generally miserable weather on the Kola Peninsula. The first set of visible light shots taken an hour after the FLASH signal had gone out from Moscow showed the fleet at anchor or tied to the docks. On infrared a number of them were glowing brightly from internal heat, indicating that their boilers or gas-turbine engine plants were operating. The second set of photos had been taken on the next orbital pass at a very low angle.


pages: 602 words: 164,940

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe

gravity well, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, side project

Oh, or having the whole fucking building burn down—and—and not to mention what happened to Harlan, and Lolla…” “She doesn’t mean the facts, idiot.” Nox put a weapon down and pointed at them with the gun oil–stained rag he’d been using to clean it. “She means the details.” Arden picked their head up and squinted at Nox with the same raw bewilderment Jules thought they might express if a houseplant had suddenly up and started lecturing them on orbital mechanics. “Which. Details. Exactly?” “The guardcore themselves, for starters,” she said, swooping in to explain things before those two idiots got themselves into a fight that’d slow everything down. “No insignia, small numbers. And yeah, they hit your place in the morning, but I don’t think they would have if they hadn’t been in a rush to clean up what they’d missed after hitting our”—she cleared her throat—“house.


pages: 572 words: 179,024

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, drone strike, Maui Hawaii, mutually assured destruction, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Project Plowshare, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, uranium enrichment, urban sprawl, zero day

Sitting in a suite in the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills in the fall of 2002, it did not take long for Aldrin to realize something was awry when the TV interviewer began asking him questions involving conspiracy theories. “I tried redirecting the discussion back to a legitimate discussion about space,” Aldrin says. Instead the interviewer played a clip from the Fox documentary about moon hoaxes. Aldrin believes “conspiracy theories are a waste of everybody’s time and energy,” and he got up and left the interview. “I’m someone who has dealt with the exact science of space rendezvous and orbital mechanics, so to have someone approach me and seriously suggest that Neil, Mike, and I never actually went to the moon, but that the entire trip had been staged in a sound studio someplace, has to rank with one of the most ludicrous ideas I’ve ever heard,” says Aldrin. Then, down in the hotel lobby, a large man in his midthirties approached Buzz Aldrin and tried to spark a conversation. The man, whose name was Bart Sibrel, had a film crew with him.


Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

British Empire, invisible hand, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, place-making, price mechanism

Jack stared at the image for a few seconds, then turned away in disgust. He was playing voyeur, trying to discern the figure of someone who was probably a terrorist. There were no such attractions at camps -04 and -18, and he wondered at the significance of this until he remembered that only one satellite was giving daylight photos with people in them. Ryan made a note to himself to check at the Academy's library for a book on orbital mechanics. He decided that he needed to know how often a single satellite passed over a given spot in a day. "You're not getting anywhere," he told himself aloud. "Neither is anybody else," Marty Cantor said. Ryan spun around. "How did you get in here?" Jack demanded. "I'll say one thing for you, Jack, when you concentrate you really concentrate. I've been standing here for five minutes." Cantor grinned.


pages: 857 words: 232,302

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton

clean water, information retrieval, Kickstarter, megacity, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, plutocrats, Plutocrats, trade route, urban sprawl

To the navy exploration vessel that had found it in 3072, it was as if a planet-sized starship had tried to erupt out of hyperspace with only partial success, the nose slicing out cleanly into spacetime while the tail section was still lost amid the intricate folds of the universe’s underlying quantum fields. The only thing that ruined that big-aerodynamic-starship image was the sheer size of the brute. On top of the triangle was a five-kilometer-diameter spire that was a further two thousand kilometers in length—function unknown. Contrary to all natural orbital mechanics, the Spike remained oriented in one direction, with the tip pointing straight out of the Hot Ring ecliptic. Its concave curve also tracked the star as it traveled along its perfectly circular orbit like some heliotactic sail-shaped flower always following the light. Thus, the anchoring twist that held its base amid the whirling rocky particles was obviously active, although its mechanism was somewhere within the unreachable base.


pages: 1,263 words: 371,402

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois

augmented reality, clean water, computer age, cosmological constant, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, financial independence, game design, gravity well, jitney, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Paul Graham, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Skype, stem cell, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, urban renewal, Wall-E

While I was doing that, I was also getting ready for launch. My mobiles crawled all over me doing a visual check while a subprogram ran down the full diagnostic list. I linked up with Ilia Control to book a launch window, and ordered three tons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Prepping myself for takeoff is always a welcome relief from business matters. It’s all technical. Stuff I can control. Orbital mechanics never have a hidden agenda. Edward returned four hours later. His tourist remote led the way, followed by a hired cargo lifter carrying the xenon, the mysterious container, and my power unit. The lifter was a clumsy fellow called Gojira, and while he was abusing my payload deck I contacted him over a private link. “Where’d this stuff come from?” “Warehouse.” “Which warehouse? And watch your wheels—you’re about to hit my leg again.”


pages: 1,386 words: 379,115

Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton

car-free, complexity theory, forensic accounting, gravity well, megacity, megastructure, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, planetary scale, trade route, trickle-down economics

If you say so.’ * Once again, Wilson Kime waited to set foot on a new world. He stood in front of the gateway as dawn rose above Half Way, flooding the barren rock island with red light and intense blue-white flashes. In the generator building behind the gateway, power was starting to feed in from the stormrider. He tried not to feel too smug about it, but with his knowledge of astroengineering and orbital mechanics, the technical types in Adam’s team had automatically deferred to him. It had taken him twenty minutes at the console in the generator building, mapping out the Stormrider’s primary systems and guidance programs, before he sent up the first batch of instructions. His virtual vision produced a basic flight profile display, with a long curving white line designating the Stormrider’s course as it flew around its perpetual loop.