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.
A key challenge in building colonies on the moon is that it’s incredibly expensive to transport construction materials to space from Earth. That’s why researchers are exploring how moon bases could be mostly constructed from raw materials already there. A team of scientists working with the European Space Agency (ESA) are exploring how urine could […]
The new Mars rover Perseverance, set to launch in July for a February 2021 landing, will be outfitted with its own small helicopter. NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Station recently put the chopper through its paces, marking the last time they’ll spin it up before landing on the red planet. From Kennedy Space Center: The […]
American drug maker Johnson & Johnson said Monday it plans to begin the human testing phase of its experimental coronavirus vaccine by September 2020, with plans to make it available for emergency use in early 2021.
For wine lovers around the world, it’s all about discovery. Once they get a taste for the grape, oenophiles are rarely satisfied with even the most carefully curated, go-to vintages. There’s always a hunt for the next great pairing, the thrill of uncorking a bold new Tempranillo or sublime Moscato. That feeling is a jones […]
These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside. As rough as all this time cooped up inside the house is on us adults, it’s even worse for kids. All that borderline maniacal energy along with an unquenchable thirst for stimulation and attention make home sequestration like a life sentence […]
Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out […]