“There’s just a tremendously exciting prospect called solar sailing. [It] travels on the radiation and particles that come out of the sun, the wind from the sun. Because it has a constant acceleration, it can get you around the inner part of the solar system a lot faster...than the usual sorts of rocket propulsion.”
Space is noticeably short on gas stations, requiring spacecraft to carry huge reserves of expensive and cumbersome propellant which limits their range. But with NASA's newest Sun-powered propulsion concept, future astronauts could sail to the stars on solar winds.
Scientists from the Rochester Institute of Technology have recently demonstrated that micrometers-long, airplane-wing-shaped rods can be lifted by a beam of laser light. This research has the potential to upgrade solar sail technology and power microscopic machines.
Laugh all you want at the sea-urchiny ship Jor-El used to send Kal-El to earth, but it looks a lot like the new kind of solar-sail array developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki. Instead of the standard solar panels, the Finnish scientists propose long thin strands, just microns in diameter, that…