Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sailing to the Stars

By now many of you have probably heard of the Cosmos-1 solar sail space craft. It’s made press all over the world and the apparent failure of the project was reported today in the U.P.I. The Cosmos 1 solar sail spacecraft is a ship without an engine pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off giant mirror-like sails. According to the Cosmos 1 website, because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.

Obviously the solar sail engineers have tweaking to do - but the concept must resonate with sailors, long proponents of harnessing the force of nature to propel craft. All sorts of fantastic future scenarios coem to mind, but my take-away is, power-by-sail is the fundamental driver of exploration. When the planet was as mysterious and uncharted as space is to us today, sailors explored, recorded and mapped the unknown. Of course we developed smelly fossil fueled engines that provided more reliable and speedier ways to explore, but it was the science of seafaring and the technology of ocean passage making that enabled the successful exploration (not the discovery) of new continents and civilizations. Be sure to check out the Wired story here - they report that theoretically within three years a solar sail could be traveling faster than 100,000 mph without a drop of onboard fuel.

1 comment:

EVK4 said...

It blew up during launch today. Story on Yahoo.