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Space

Planetary Society Wants To Launch a Crowd-Funded Solar Sail 52

jan_jes writes to note that The Planetary Society is attempting to crowdfund its own version of the light-powered space-craft popularized by Carl Sagan as a "solar sailer." (YouTube video, with the Society's CEO Bill Nye.) The current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016. LightSail will be released into an orbit with an altitude of 720 kilometers (450 miles), high enough to escape most of the planet's atmospheric drag. Their crowdfunding goal has been far surpassed (more than $476,000 at this writing), but more can't hurt; maybe NASA could use some of the surplus.
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Planetary Society Wants To Launch a Crowd-Funded Solar Sail

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @09:03PM (#49702611)
    is that in micro-refrigerators or slices-per-second?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Happy because people can get together and do something meaningful.
    Sad because bureaucrats can't be convinced this is a meaningful endeavor.

    NASA could have being a driving force in all this kind of apparently crazy experiments. But is struggling with the quantity of pork distributed by politicians from the meager budget to their home states.

  • by kenwd0elq ( 985465 ) <kenwd0elq@engineer.com> on Friday May 15, 2015 @09:24PM (#49702717)

    With a 1963 SF story in the Scouting magazine "Boy's Life", I believe that Arthur C. Clarke beat Carl Sagan to the "solar sail" idea by a decade or so.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hence "popularized" not "invented." It really wasn't one of Clarke's best-known shorts, and though I'm just guessing, I'd imagine that a visible celebrity like Sagan, on a then-popular show like Carsons, got more awareness for the idea.

      • The story was a good one and was anthologized in several collections. But Clarke was a real genius, where Sagan only talked a good game. If Clarke had patented all the innovative ideas that he wrote stories about - like geosynchronous communications satellites or ground-controlled approaches in bad weather - he'd have been richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          - like geosynchronous communications satellites

          Fewer than a dozen communications satellites were launched before his patent would have expired, and some of those were Soviet, and only two of them were geosynchronous.

        • Patenting "geosynchronous communications satellites"...well, to quote Clarke himself:"I learned from my patent attorney that even if I had tried to patent the communications satellite in 1945, the patent would have been rejected because the required technology did not yet exist, and the patent wouldn't have been worth getting because its life would only have been 17 years. The patent would have expired the year before the Early Bird was launched." So...unfortunately he wouldn't have. By publishing the idea
        • I admire Clarke as much as anybody here, but he admits he did not invent the geostationary orbit (though he was the first to suggest using the orbit for communications satellites). The idea had been proposed as early as the 19th century by Tsiolkovsky [wikipedia.org]. Citation available here [ieee.org] (paywalled, sorry, but you can get the gist from the abstract).
    • Predating Clarke's story, Planet of the Apes, also from 1963, featured a solar sailing interstellar ship.

    • The girl who sailed The Soul was written in 1960, and had interstellar travel via infrared sails thousands of miles long.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Carl sagaN perhaps?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does anybody else think that this could be a solution to global warming? If we can mass produce these and send them up using SpaceX re-usable rockets the cost should be relatively low. They could reflect as much or little sunlight as needed. They could even remove heat over hurricanes to mitigate damage. We could even reduce temperatures at the equator and increase temperatures in the northern/southern latitudes if desired. In the long run it would be a good way to heat up mars, cool off venus, and ma

    • Given the tiny size of the sails, i think painting all the roads and parking lots to reflect light would work better.
      • i think painting all the roads and parking lots to reflect light would work better.

        A yes, a perfect plan, with no draw*CRASH*

        It helps to be able to see while driving.

        Cars suck and roads need to go.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want to see an EM drive go into space.

    I'm 95% sure it won't work... but can you imagine if it does.

    • Science fiction writers Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven often have "real scientists" run the numbers on their stories. Pournelle believes that a big enough laser could launch satellites from the ground into orbit.

      Only part of the thrust would be light pressure; a volatile "fuel core" being vaporized by the ground-based laser would provide much of the blast-off thrust. But you'd still have the advantage of having your "engine" here on Earth, being able to repair or replace it as needed, and eliminating ha

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Massive liability. You can't afford to have a few small asteroid piercing holes in that while flying in space.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

  • The first test launch is actually just a few days away on May 20. You can watch it live at http://sail.planetary.org/miss... [planetary.org].
  • After the test flights, we need to use these solar sailing spacecraft for actual exploration of the solar system. Solar Sailing should be in use for probes by now. It's been too long... It could be a much cheaper alternative to chemical propulsion, and it and ion drives are the future. Maybe these propulsion techniques could eventually be used for manned spaceflight. But what we are really waiting for is nuclear propulsion. If we sent a large spacecraft, constructed in orbit, and powered with Project Ori

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