Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sailing Among the Stars

Astrophysicists and engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have designed and built NanoSail-D, a “solar sail" that will test NASA’s ability to deploy a massive but fragile spacecraft from an extremely compact structure. Much like the wind pushing a sailboat through water, solar sails rely on sunlight to propel vehicles through space. The sail captures constantly streaming solar particles, called photons, with giant sails built from a lightweight material. Over time, the buildup of these particles provides enough thrust for a small spacecraft to travel in space.

Many scientists believe that solar sails have enormous potential. Because they take advantage of sunlight, they don’t require the chemical fuel that spacecraft currently rely on for propulsion. Less fuel translates into lower launch weight, lower costs and fewer logistical challenges. Solar sails accelerate slowly but surely, capable of eventually reaching tremendous speeds. In fact, most scientists consider solar sailing the only reasonable way to make interstellar travel a reality.

2 comments:

佳張張張張燕張張張張張 said...

快樂,是享受工作過程的結果......................................................................

Marcel F. Williams said...

Light sails are the key to opening up the natural resources of the solar system for commercial exploitation. Large light sails, several kilometers in diameter, could even transport humans plus several hundred tonnes of mass shielding to orbit around Mars.

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