Wednesday, June 22

Solar sail is on its way

I grew up on a steady diet of 1960s and '70s science fiction, so I can't help but be excited at the news that the world's first privately-funded solar sail project has been launched today. It certainly reads like the plot of a sci-fi novel: inspired by the widow of a visionary astronomist and thinker (Carl Sagan [we're not worthy, we're not worthy]) a group of private individuals campaigns for 20-odd years to raise the funds and support needed to send a craft powered by a solar sail into Earth orbit, in a symbolic gesture meant to inspire all of humanity to stop with the violence and the destruction and look to the stars as the next goal for humankind.

To add some further plot intrigue, they launch the payload from a freakin' decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine in the freakin' Artic circle! I mean, come on, why not launch a death ray satellite instead and hold the UN ransom for a billion dollars? [evil laugh].

Actually, it seems like a very worthy cause, and hopefully the launch and the mission will go smoothly, so all that effort counts for something. In the next few days if the satellite responds to instructions, it should begin to deploy the solar sail, at which point, if the sun, the satellite and yourself are all in alignment, you should be able to see it clearly as it zooms overhead in the night sky.

You can follow its orbit and get instructions on how to try and see it as it flies over here.

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