Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 866-887

First online:

Periodic Image Trajectories in Earth–Moon Space

  • Mauro PontaniAffiliated withUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza” Email author 
  • , Angelo MieleAffiliated withRice University

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The problem of identifying orbits that enclose both the Earth and the Moon in a predictable way has theoretical relevance as well as practical implications. In the context of the restricted three-body problem with primaries in circular orbits, periodic trajectories exist and have the property that a third body (e.g. a spacecraft) can describe them indefinitely. Several approaches have been employed in the past for the purpose of identifying similar orbits. In this work the theorem of image trajectories, proven five decades ago, is employed for determining periodic image trajectories in Earth–Moon space. These trajectories exhibit two fundamental features: (i) counterclockwise departure from a perigee on the far side of the Earth, and (ii) counterclockwise arrival to a periselenum on the far side of the Moon. An extensive, systematic numerical search is performed, with the use of a modified Poincaré map, in conjunction with a numerical refinement process, and leads to a variety of periodic orbits, with various interesting features for possible future lunar missions.


Image trajectories Periodic orbits Modified Poincaré maps Restricted three-body problem Lunar missions