Saturday, January 07, 2006


One of the more interesting projects that NASA has on the drawing board is using solar wind as a source of motive power. I know that this sounds like Flash Gordon stuff, but with the right materials, we should be able to build a "sailboat" that uses light and magnetism as a "wind" to fly with.

I came across a report of some of the test materials that NASA has been playing with. That pic on the left is a possible suit of sails on a future sailing vessel. Four triangular collectors that could be configured like a stellar parachute of sorts made from a cross between microscopic thin aluminum foil and saran wrap, dragging a pod behind itself with some human cargo aboard, also of super light materials such as the carbon matrix stuff that NASA is playing with here in the above picture. The whole deployed "sail" could be constructed off-Earth in zero grav conditions and made...oooh, say... a hundred miles square. Why not? And think about capturing the thrust of the solar wind of the sun. And as that fades, capture the variations of the magnetic field presented by Sol... then Jupiter.... then any other damned source of electric or magnetic energy available from here to Alpha Cintauri. Just think...

Think about it: final manufacture outside of Earth's gravitational field, capturing photons from good ole Sol, moving exactly as a sailing vessal would on the wind in the ocean here on earth, gradually increasing speed in the frictionless world of space... I figure we'd lose the push from Sol about where Jupiter is now, but we would have sufficient speed accumulated so that we could just slingshot out of this solar system entirely.

Isn't that an interesting idea... Lacking friction I'll bet we could get that sailboat to move pretty close to the speed of light before we got over it. Damn! What a ride!