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Optimal Exit:
Solar Escape as a Restricted 3-body Problem

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Christine Leidel, Nicholas Johann Harmon, John F. Lindner

We analyze solar escape as a special case of the restricted three-body problem.
We systematically vary the parameters of our model solar system to show how
optimal launch angle and minimum escape speed depend on the mass and size of
Earth. In some cases, it is best to launch near the direction of Earth's motion,
but slightly outward; in other cases, it is best to launch near the perpendicular
to Earth's motion, but inward, toward Sun (so as to obtain a solar gravity assist).
Between direct escapes for high launch speeds and trapped trajectories for low
launch speeds is an irregular band of chaotic orbits that reveals something of
the true complexity of solar escape and of the three-body problem. This research
was partially supported by NSF-DMR 9987850.