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In depth Mars flight trajectory studies

  1. Feb 1, 2015 #1
    Can anyone point me in the direction of any published scientific work involving the study of Earth to Mars flight trajectories? I am thinking of researching this topic for a project and I would like to know about the work that has already been done.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2015 #2


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    What is your level of knowledge on the subject?
  4. Feb 1, 2015 #3


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    Bandersnatch I really like your responses to newcomer questions (e.g. this guy's second post). You hit the nail on the head every time AFAICS and often go into more depth, more concisely, than many are used to.
    Taylor, you could not do better than tell Bander your level of knowledge and see what he says.

    I can GUESS what he'll say based on what I GUESS you'll say your level is. It sounds like a HS project you are considering.

    my guess (just for fun) is that he will say to look up "Hohmann transfer ellipse." or "Hohmann transfer orbit". It is the first type of orbit you should understand. Just wait. I'll bet that's the next topic of conversation.

    Bander, thanks for supporting forum quality like you do.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  5. Feb 2, 2015 #4


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    Cheers, marcus. You're way too kind.

    Luckily, the OP seems to have left, so I won't have to try and possibly fail at living up to the hype. Perhaps your mentioning of Hohmann transfer orbits was enough after all.

    But in case he does come back sometime later, and so as not to make your post - praising a single sentence - look like a sarcastic quip, let me add some hopefully useful ramblings.

    The thing about orbital manoeuvres is that they've been mostly figured out theoretically by the early pioneers like Hohmann, Oberth and Tsiolkovsky some hundred years ago. As such, they will be covered not in original scientific papers, but in venerable textbooks.

    The Hohmann transfer orbit is one such age-old concept. Any college-level introductory book on astronomy will have it at least mentioned. A dedicated book on orbital mechanics will do so in more detail.
    If you can't access, or be bothered to sift through such books, there is also a plethora of very good material available online.
    The very basics presented conceptually only can be found on the NASA website:
    and a fine rigorous treatment is accessible from MIT open courseware:
    (lecture #17 specifically - it's in-depth but doesn't require any advanced calculus)

    In general, the fundamentals of Hohmann transfer orbits can be understood with little more than energy conservation equations.

    As far as I can tell, most of advancements in the area are left to the engineering and number crunching side of things. But there is some theoretical research trying to fine-tune some of the details too. This paper, for example:
    Earth--Mars Transfers with Ballistic Capture; F.Toputto, E.Belbruno
    is one of such attempts. If this is the level of 'in-depth studies' required, then I'd advise to follow the sources from that article and see where they get you.
  6. Feb 2, 2015 #5
    Thanks Bandersnatch, my knowledge of the subject isn't very advanced right now. I recently began studying orbital mechanics due to my own interest in the subject as well as my interest in Mars.
  7. Feb 2, 2015 #6


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    Alright! For people new to the subject, but driven, I always recommend the free spacecraft simulator Orbiter as a supplement. It's one thing to learn about orbits in a dry textbook-and-equation format, another to sit in a cockpit and make use of the ideas to actually fly around the solar system.
    Get it from here:
    The manual itself is a good primer on orbital mechanics.
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