Friday, April 17, 2009
Solar Sailing Article
The May issue the The Atlantic has an interesting article on the solar sail test project sponsored by The Planetary Society (the article is already available online). Cosmos 1 was the first attempt to launch and deploy a spacecraft with a solar sail, and the first space mission by a privately-funded space interest group, but unfortunately the Russian launch vehicle failed shortly after launch on June 21, 2005, and Cosmos 1 never reached orbit.
The Planetary Society is still working to keep the project alive and raise the money needed to launch Cosmos 2 (estimated at $4-5 million). I'm a member of TPS and I've occasionally donated money for various projects in addition to the normal membership fees. I'm headed over to the solar sail donation page right now. If any of my Gentle Readers happen to be space-minded millionaires, your help would be especially appreciated, but any donation will help. Solar sails are probably the best bet for a technology that could eventually get us to the stars. That's certainly a long way off, but we have to start somewhere.
The picture above is a solar sail add-on model in Orbiter.