In the News



Finding Order in the Apparent Chaos of Currents
By Bina Venkataraman
Published: September 28, 2009
New York Times

“They aren’t something you can walk up to and touch, but they are
not purely mathematical constructions, either.”

Jerrold E. Marsden, Caltech, describing the complex structures formed in turbulent water [ APS Physics News ].

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Online | pdf


Navigating Celestial Currents
Math leads spacecraft on joy rides through the solar system

Erica Klarreich
Science News Vol. 167, No. 16, April 16, 2005
Science News Online

Last April, the Genesis spacecraft began its journey home. It had been parked out in space collecting solar particles for 2 years. Yet even though its job was done, Genesis didn’t head straight home. Instead, it took a 3-million-mile detour, swinging past Earth to do a loop de loop around a distant point before flying back to Earth.

This circuitous route was no accident. The spacecraft had hopped aboard the interplanetary superhighway, a network of tubes criss-crossing through the solar system. By jumping from one tube to another at the solar system’s version of highway interchanges, a spacecraft can travel vast distances using practically no fuel.

“Genesis was the most efficient space mission ever flown,” says Jerrold Marsden, a mathematician at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who studies spacecraft trajectories. …

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Next Exit 0.5 Million Kilometers

Douglas L. Smith
E&S Magazine, Volume LXV, Number 4, 2002

The year is 2020. Under a crescent Earth, the assembly crew at the Lunar Gateway Service Area some 62,000 kilometers above the moon’s surface installs new electronics on an infrared telescope and sets it moving, at the speed of a Ford Pinto climbing an on-ramp, off to park itself deep in Earth’s shadow, where a little cryogenic coolant goes a long way and where Earth is always directly overhead for high-speed data downlinks. This spacecraft has, in fact, just entered what Martin Lo (BS ’75), a member of the technical staff at JPL, calls the Interplanetary Superhighway—“a vast network of winding tunnels in space” that connects the sun, the planets, their moons, and a host of other destinations as well. But unlike the wormholes beloved of science-fiction writers, these things are real. In fact, they are already being used.

Lo, together with Caltech’s Jerrold Marsden, professor of Control and Dynamical Systems (CDS), and their coworkers Shane Ross (BS ’98, a CDS graduate student) and Wang Sang Koon (a CDS senior postdoc) have begun a systematic mapping effort of what is more properly known as the Interplanetary Transport Network. …

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