Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Solar Sail


The Planetary Society footed the bill for a Solar powered space craft to be launched into orbit today. It is going to circle the earth until it builds up enough speed and the scientists in control of it understand how to control/steer it.

They estimate that after one day it will speed up to 100MPH.
After 100 days it will be running at 10,000MPH.
After 3 years it will be flying at a cool 100,000MPH.

This is the technology that a lot of scientists are betting on because it does not require a limited fuel source as the photons which power it are supposedly available anywhere we would want to go. With this technology if it works the way we hope, we could potentially reach other solar systems.

I was just thinking about how this would work and found this thought really interesting.
a. We use the Sun's photons to increase our speed to 100,000+ MPH
b. We fold in our solar sail and change heading from our solar system to the nearest external solar system
c. After reaching the remote solar system x years from now, we fold out the solar sail to use the new star's photons to slow ourselves down.

Originally I was thinking that we would start to head towards the remote solar system and we would slow down because of the photons hitting us on our sails from the front (like how a sailing boat angled towards the incoming wind would slow to a stop). Interesting, a lot of stuff could go on with this technology.

Here is the official site for the Planetary Society - Solar Sail launch.

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