Spiderweb Solar-Wind Sail Proves Jor-El Was Right

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 stretch out from the spaceship, and use a positive charge to repel heavy positive ions in the solar wind that move at hundreds of kilometers per second.

Unlike Superman's ship, these strands have to be very long—even a test run will require a total of 10 kilometers of the strand, which is currently stitched by hand using ultrasound. Also, as they require solar wind, they won't be much for interstellar travel. Still, as you can see in the video below, it's wild stuff, promising to provide plentiful free "fuel" for fast travel around the solar system. [New Scientist via KurzweilAI]


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