When we’re embarking on a road trip, we typically plan our drive for a route that best suits our needs. Whether that means taking the scenic backroads or an efficient interstate, there are definitely many options to consider. The same way certain cars are designed for aerodynamic flow, the interplanetary superhighway is made for efficient travel amongst the cosmos. Unlike Earth, it’s safe to say there are no tolls out there.
The idea was conceived by Martin Lo, whose software system takes advantage of various gravitational pulls on a spacecraft. NASA’s previous Genesis mission used the interplanetary highway to collect and report on solar wind particles. Current missions are typically designed in a specific way to take advantage of these gravitational points.
According to NASA, Each planet and moon has five locations in space called Lagrange points, where one body’s gravity balances another’s. In a sense, the gravity between two planetary bodies cancels out. Spacecrafts can orbit without using excessive amounts of fuel. This makes cosmic travel a lot more productive while cutting costs.
Like currents in the ocean or streams leading jets, the interplanetary superhighway simplifies complex missions. “These simplifications result in fewer space vehicles needed for a broad range of mission options,” says Doug Cook, manager of NASA’s Johnson Advanced Development Office.
Due to the energy requirement being so low, it is possible to travel this way in any part of the solar system. However, it is also a lot slower than fuel-driven missions.
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