Japan is launching its first Venus probe and along with it they're sending Ikaros, a "space yacht" also known as the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun. Yes, Japan is sending a gigantic kite into space:
Ikaros will initially be a short cylindrical shape when it is released into space, when it will extend its sail, which measures 14 metres (46 feet) on each side and 20 metres diagonally.
The sail itself consists of an experimental material thinner than a human hair and equipped with solar cells which will be "reflecting solar radiation back toward the sun. This action causes a microscopic but measurable force on the sail itself, which is thus propelled through space."
Ikaros' technology could one day aid us in traveling through space with sunlight as our only fuel. In the meantime, it's gotta be one of the prettiest, biggest kites I've seen—if only it lives up to the rendered image that is. [Space Daily via Fast Company]