Yesterday, a satellite smaller than a shoebox unfurled a solar sail making it the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth powered by sunlight. LightSail2 is a project of the Planetary Society, a fantastic nonprofit organization co-founded by astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan. From the New York Times:
For centuries, it was only a dream: traveling through space propelled by the sun’s photons. It was first imagined in the 1600s by Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer who described the laws of the planets’ orbits. In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke moved it into the realm of science fiction in “Sunjammer,” a short story. Carl Sagan, the cosmologist, believed it could be more than a speculative fantasy, and in the 1970s began promoting the building of solar sails for space exploration.
After 10 years of planning and over 40,000 private donations worth $7 million, that idea took flight on Tuesday, as LightSail 2, a spacecraft built for the Planetary Society, co-founded by Mr. Sagan, began what its creators hope will be a year of sailing around Earth.
“This is still one of the most feasible pathways to have real interstellar space travel in the future,” said Sasha Sagan, a writer as well as the daughter of the astronomer.
If it succeeds in its mission, it will contribute to overcoming one of the greatest limitations on the outer bounds of space travel — that the power that steers spacecraft, usually hydrazine fuel, eventually runs out.
Thirty years ago today, the Voyager 1 spaceprobe had completed its ncounters with the outer planets and was careening out of our solar system. The time came to shut off the probes’ cameras to preserve power and memory for the other onboard scientific instruments. But before engineers flipped the switch, one last photo opportunity was […]
While scientists have studied Moon rocks for 50 years, researchers have for the first time conducted deep analysis on a single grain of lunar dust, atom by atom. Using a common materials science technique called atom probe tomography that’s not widely used by geologists, the Chicago Field Museum’s Jennika Greer and colleagues probed the grain […]
This is so amazing. Watch what happens when a blacksmithing anvil is lowered into a large vat of pure liquid mercury. Update: One of our readers posted the link to the original video in the comments. I have replaced the animated GIF. Thanks, Crispy75. [H/t Alberto Gaitán via Bryce Lynch] Image: Screengrab from GIF
Two-thirds of American adults drink coffee every day. On average, they’re each drinking about three cups per day, which works out to nearly 400 million cups downed each and every day. We don’t have stats on what percentage of those cups are God awfully bad, but you have to assume with so many ways to […]
For those with a writing flair, the thought of building a career as a professional copywriter should probably have some appeal. Thankfully, it’s also an in-demand job skill with the average copywriter making a healthy $60,000 a year for their efforts. But even if you have a way with words, you still need the industry […]
While we all love our iPhones and iPads, celebrating the releases of their latest and greatest versions, it’s amusing to consider how much we at the same time HATE the main item that keeps these little tech marvels powered up and working. No, Lightning cables don’t exactly inspire feelings of awe and wonder. It’s more […]