About this Research Topic
Regarding the first point, different mission concepts, some of which are already operational, aim to exploit the cislunar space in order to gain advancements in terms of technology, operations and science. The long-term view of this effort includes the possibility of:
- extending the human presence in the Solar System, and in particular the capability of human operations beyond the radiation belts;
- setting an extraterrestrial hub;
- exploiting in-situ resources, either on the lunar surface or on asteroids retrieved in the vicinity of the Earth;
- supporting a new generation of Solar System exploration missions.
On the other hand, the growing awareness of the presence of artificial debris in the circumterrestrial space and its implications is leading to very refined solutions to mitigate the problem, both in the short- and long-term. They also comprise important technological and operational challenges, along with economical and political issues.
All these applications share the common feature of belonging to the Earth-Moon system, which is characterized by a unique dynamical richness, given the high ratio between the mass of the Earth and the mass of the Moon, the eccentricity of the lunar orbit which cannot be neglected a priori, and the proximity to the Sun. This complexity allows for a multiplicity of orbits which can be designed ad hoc to satisfy specific constraints. For instance, one may think to libration points orbits and their associated hyperbolic manifolds for asteroid retrieval or even asteroid observation purposes, or to take advantage of the combined effect of Earth, Moon and Sun (the latter both for gravitational attraction and solar radiation pressure effects), in order to design passive disposal solutions for Earth' satellites at the end-of-life.
If this abundance can be seen as an opportunity of flexibility for the mission designer, it also represents a challenge in terms of theoretical understanding and operational control. In this perspective, the Earth-Moon system can be seen as an excellent laboratory to test all types of dynamics, and any improvement in terms of technology must rely on a full comprehension of the dynamics at stake.
Nature also shows that a number of solutions are at our disposal in the cislunar space. To mention a few illustrative cases:
- fresh small impact craters are continuously being found by probes which are now orbiting the Moon
- Earth mini-moons and quasi-satellites have been observed only recently.
However, the corresponding dynamics are still yet to be completely explained.
This Research Topic covers the Earth-Moon dynamics in its complexity and allure, focusing on the challenges that it represents both from a theoretical and an applied point of view. Any studies concerning transfers or temporary capture with application to natural and artificial bodies are welcomed.
Keywords: Cislunar Dynamics, Earth quasi-satellites, Disposal Orbits, Third body effect, Lunar Orbits
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