Japan's Mega Solar Kite Conquered Space, But Now Needs To Fly

Illustration for article titled Japans Mega Solar Kite Conquered Space, But Now Needs To Fly

The 20meter (diagonally) solar sail Ikaros we mentioned last month has been successfully unfurled in space by its Japanese team. Now it's a waiting game to see if it can be used for solar-powered travel as planned.

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The sail was created using super-thin aluminumized plastic—so thin, in fact, that it's roughly the same size of a red blood cell's diameter, at 0.0003-inches thick. Reflecting the solar radiation back at the sun, it will hopefully propel itself through space, becoming a viable form of space-transport for the future. I can see us all now, riding these solar sails like windsails (sunglasses firmly attached to our faces). [Jaxa via Wired]

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I think it's great that other countries are researching technology like this. When I was a kid, and generations before me, we had so many awesome things to watch that involved space. Nowadays, the USA isn't doing too much there, and kids don't have something to look at that makes them think "I want to be an engineer and build a space shuttle!" We're going to lose our competitive advantage...