News Home Video Gallery Newsletters Photo Gallery Cruising Int

 

Sail-World.com : Sailing on sunshine: learning from the past

Sailing on sunshine: learning from the past

'Nanosail streaks across the nightsky'    .

One of the oldest technologies to be developed by the human race emerges again. It was sailing vessels that sailed on the wind into the unknown to discover our oceans and the lands beyond them, and now it is sailing vessels which are sailing on sunshine into the unknown to discover the mysteries of space. Alexandra Witze here writes of 'unfurling your jib and tacking your way into space' as a growing trend among space scientists.

When the privately funded Pasadena-based Planetary Society launches its sailing vessel into space next year, it will be the third such vessel to make a space voyage, and if the satellite design team at the University of Surrey get theirs 'off the ground' that will be the fourth.


After keeping scientists in suspense, NASA’s NanoSail-D fanned out in space this year (and is now sailing an orbit around the earth). When it comes to futuristic space travel, few concepts are more romantic than sailing on sunlight. Soar above Earth, unfurl a jib and tack your way through the solar system all the way to interstellar space.

Solar sails have been a mainstay of dreamers since Johannes Kepler, who speculated four centuries ago that ships would one day be powered by 'heavenly air.' But sun sailing is no longer fanciful fodder for visionaries. Recent technological advances have moved solar sailing from science fiction to science fact.

Last year, Japan’s space agency launched the world’s first solar sail into interplanetary space; its metal-coated membrane unfurled and caught the light to begin sunjamming. And with help from tiny 'nanosatellites' that allow scientists to pack folded-up sails in spacecraft no bigger than a loaf of bread, NASA this year sent its first sail skipping through Earth orbit.

Look overhead at the right time of night, and you can spot the gleaming streak of NASA’s NanoSail-D as it tumbles closer to Earth, mission accomplished. Within the next few months it will incinerate in the atmosphere in a bright flash.


Solar sail enthusiasts have waited decades to see such flights. And one day, they hope, solar sails will perform tasks other spacecraft cannot: hover above Earth’s poles to monitor climate change, flit near the sun to watch for solar storms, drag space junk out of orbit like a cosmic maid or even journey to a nearby star.

'As far as solar sails go, we are on the cusp of history,' says Dean Alhorn, an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who leads the NanoSail-D mission. 'We are ready now with the technology to make these happen.'

How does sailing on sunlight work? -  .. .  
How does it work?
A solar sail gets its momentum from particles of light hitting it and bouncing off. By tilting the sail so the photons hit at different angles, the sail can be made to fall in toward the sun (a shrinking orbit) or travel outward (an expanding orbit).

In principle, solar sailing could not be easier. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell described in 1873 how light can exert pressure: A particle of light transfers up to nearly twice its momentum to an object it bounces off of.

Each individual transfer amounts to no more than a mosquito’s breath, but over time that breath accumulates to a steady wind that a spacecraft can ride just as a sailboat rides the wind on Earth. After 100 days, a solar sail could reach 14,000 kilometers per hour; after three years it could be zipping along at 240,000 kilometers per hour. At that rate it could get to Pluto in less than five years, rather than the nine years the plutonium-powered New Horizons spacecraft, now on its way, is taking. Solar sails are the tortoise to the hare of chemical rocketry.

Scientists have long wanted such a tortoise. In the 1920s Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the founder of Soviet astronautics, and colleague Fridrikh Tsander separately wrote of the idea of using solar radiation pressure to accelerate sails. After a few decades on the back burner, the idea took off in the ’50s and ’60s, with engineers drafting up grandiose designs and Arthur C. Clarke plotting a solar sail race in his short story 'The Wind from the Sun.'

By 1976 engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., were dreaming of sending a massive solar sail to fly alongside Comet Halley as it passed close to Earth the next decade.

Without the need to carry fuel, solar sails promise to be a cheaper way to explore Earth and its environs. They can also make visits, such as hovering above the North Pole, that traditional spacecraft can’t because of the dictates of gravity.

But solar sails lost the funding battle to other alternative propulsion systems — at least in the United States. By the early 1990s a few other sporadic attempts, including a plan for a solar sail race to Mars, also fell apart.

Tiny cube the secret of success for sunlight sailing -  .. .  
Now, tiny satellites may be saving the big dreams of some would-be solar sailors. One of the hottest things in satellite technology today is the CubeSat, a box just 10 centimeters on a side that weighs about 1 kilogram. Such boxes can be mixed and matched in 'nanosatellite' combinations of up to three cubes yet still be launched using a shared deployment system.

CubeSats are thus relatively cheap and easy to work with, so researchers have used them to carry a variety of science experiments. A small solar sail, thinner than a trash bag and weighing just grams, turns out to be nearly the perfect payload to fly on a CubeSat.

'When we first thought of solar sails back in the ’70s and ’80s, it was these huge structures, a mile or half a mile on a side,' says Louis Friedman, cofounder of the Planetary Society. 'That was kind of unimaginable. Now we’re talking about things 5 meters or 10 meters on a side, so a lot of people might be able to build them and use them a little more practically.'

For more information about general science and astronomy, go to Science News?nid=87787




by Alexandra Witze, Science News/Sail-World Cruising

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=87787

2:23 AM Sat 27 Aug 2011 GMT






Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.


Related News Stories:

17 Apr 2014  HUD Vision: An interview with Afterguard Marine’s Alex Moret
01 Dec 2013  New free smartphone app for New Zealand sailors
28 Sep 2013  The magic of NOAS: coming to a marina near you - but not for a while
18 Sep 2013  Sailing space to discover new worlds
26 Jun 2013  Beneteau invites: Design your OWN Oceanis, just as you want it...
10 May 2013  New 'Penguin' semi-sub: explore under the sea without getting wet
02 Apr 2013  Harken, putting the 'jazzle' on board your sailing boat
27 Mar 2013  Sailing to be our space future as NASA's solar sail prepares to fly
26 Mar 2013  Hybrid project on Hallberg Rassy wins Royal Thames Mansura Trophy
22 Mar 2013  New tool in the war against Somali piracy
MORE STORIES ...

Cruising USA

Michael Thurston, the owner of the Australian yacht Drina, sent us a message from Nome, Alaska, to inform us that he and his crew had reached the Pacific Ocean thus successfully completing a transit of the Northwest Passage. A late opening of the Bellot Strait allowed Drina to reach the central part of the Northwest Passage only by mid-September. ... [more]  

The World ARC fleet departed the Cocos (Keeling) Islands this morning, embarking on the second longest sail of their circumnavigation; a 2350 nautical miles journey to Mauritius. Their stay in the tropical atoll has certainly been one to remember. ... [more]  

Pantaenius, the world’s leading specialist yacht insurance company, has been at the forefront of yacht insurance for more than 40 years, earning a reputation for transparency and commitment to customer service that provides round-the-clock international support and reliable, speedy claims settlement. ... [more]  

How to make a distance scale for faster navigation by Captain John Jamieson, Florida
If you are anything like me, sailing navigation can be a challenge when short- or single-handed sailing. But you still need to be able to plot fast and accurate positions for sailing safety. Here one little-known sailing tip used by the pros that will help you do just that! ... [more]  

The 14th edition of the Atlas also includes a new double page map of the Arctic Ocean, which highlights the dramatic long-term decline of Arctic sea ice cover. The sub-ice maps draw on bedrock data, provided by the British Antarctic Survey, to show physical features which are obscured by ice cover. ... [more]  

On Monday 22 September the EU Naval Force flagship, ITS Andrea Doria, met the Chinese Navy ship, CNS Changbaishan, in the Gulf of Aden. ... [more]  

The Presque Isle peninsula is a 3,200-acre – 7-mile long arm that extends northeast into Lake Erie creating a large, sheltered boating paradise of a harbour. With a string of well equipped marinas, a wealth of facilities and a very impressive yacht club, it has attractions for boaters that place it at the top of a cruising destination list. ... [more]  

In the early morning of Friday 19 September, EU Naval Force frigate, ESPS Navarra, came to the aid of a stricken yacht in the Gulf of Aden. The yacht had been detected on the warship’s radar in the early morning. ESPS Navarra’s Bridge team initially tried to hail the yacht via their VHF radio. ... [more]  

As their annual migration south approaches, sail and powerboat cruisers are stocking their boat’s lockers, checking systems and taking inventory of spare parts. But that’s not the only preparation these cruising 'snowbirds' will need to do, says Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS). ... [more]  

Lost your rudder at sea? Michael Keyworth perfected a way to steer using drogues. To engineer this solution, he removed the rudder from his own boat(!), and experimented with different method, and has summarized his technique in this terrific article. ... [more]  

You scratched my seagrass! by Steven Katona, Newport, RI
Sailors for the Sea publishes monthly articles that translate the language of marine science into fascinating articles about ocean health. ... [more]  

Following a relatively short stopover in Christmas Island, eleven of the World ARC fleet have now arrived in their next paradise, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. From first settlement in 1826 by English merchant Alexander Hare, through decades of administration by the Clunies-Ross dynasty, most island inhabitants had little freedom or contact with the outside world. ... [more]  

Paul Whitehouse and Simone Wood, from Wolverhampton and London, were in La Paz in Baja California when Hurricane Odile hit the Baja California peninsula last Sunday. It is thought their yacht overturned, and the couple have not been seen since. The couple is thought to have been living in La Paz for around a year. Mr Whitehouse is believed to be a scuba diving instructor in the city. ... [more]  

This might be the Texting and Facebook generation but boaters need to use VHF radio says volunteer rescuers from Weston-super-Mare's lifeboat station who rescued a yachtsman whose boat sank in the middle of the Bristol Channel and who then texted his girlfriend. ... [more]  

Earlier this year two men died in their bunks of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the highly toxic fumes given off from a poorly maintained butane gas cooker. The cooker which was located in the wheelhouse had been lit to heat the wheelhouse and sleeping area. A carbon monoxide alarm was not fitted. ... [more]  

The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land and Arctic sea ice is the thin layer of frozen ocean water that forms and grows during the winter, and melts in the summer. Dr Jeremy Wilkinson from the British Antarctic Survey provides a scientist’s perspective on the trend for decreasing Arctic sea ice. ... [more]  

The Virgin Islands are an archipelago. That part, which is a British overseas territory, is commonly referred to as the BVI. About 30,000 people live in the BVI, most of which live on the island of Tortola. The BVI are comprised of about 50 islands the majority of which are not inhabited by humans. ... [more]  

The Galley Guys take on the Vancouver International Boat Show by Greg Nicoll with Frank Leffelaar and Friends
The Galley Guys hit the Vancouver International Boat Show running. All day long, we were checking out new boats, looking into ice lockers, peeking into storage compartments, seeing what’s new for gourmet cooking onboard and being forced to live on 'show food' by day. ... [more]  

Are you ready to enter that marina? by Captain John Jamieson, Florida
Are you ready to enter that narrow canal or passage ahead that leads into the marina? Have you prepared your boat and crew for the unexpected? No matter if it's a brand new marina or the one you use as 'home base', docking preps will be the same each and every time. ... [more]  

Each summer, in a Canadian cruising tradition, thousands of Western Lake Ontario sailors join the annual summer migration to the Bay of Quinte and the Thousand Islands. ... [more]  

Unlike an automobile, recreational boats have special safety needs when it comes to refueling. Stern drive or inboard powered boats have closed engine compartments where volatile gasoline vapors don’t easily dissipate, and older gasoline powered boats are the riskiest to refuel as their brittle fuel hoses can crack, leaving gas in the bilge after a fill-up. ... [more]  

For the next 72 hours the majority of the World ARC fleet will be moored in Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island. The crews will have been planning their 48 hours stopover here before leaving Bali so they can make the most of it. Christmas Island is one of the jewels of the Indian Ocean and has a lot to offer. 63% of its land mass is made of National Park which is home to many endemic species. ... [more]  

Three-time President of French Polynesia, Gaston Tong Sang, and current mayor of Bora Bora, has written a strong letter of support for the Blue Planet Odyssey, assuring the fleet a warm Polynesian welcome when they arrive there in 2015. ... [more]  

Remember to properly dispose of obsolete distress beacons by Australian Maritime Safety Authority
You might not be 'down under but here is a cautionary tale!- The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is urging people to ensure they dispose of their obsolete and unwanted distress beacons correctly after emergency services spent more than six hours homing a beacon eventually found dumped in bushland on Queensland's Sunshine Coast over the weekend of 6-7 September. ... [more]  

Blue Planet Odyssey - We made landfall the morning of Saturday, September 13th at 0900 local time as we passed Race Point at the entrance into Cape Cod Bay. Since leaving St John’s less than one week ago we had covered 1109 miles, at an average of just under seven knots. ... [more]  

The World ARC fleet made a great sight on September 14th as they sailed across the start line at the entrance to Benoa Harbour, Bali. Before leaving Bali International Marina, Arsa, a tour guide who had looked after the fleet during their week-long stay, visited yachts to perform a traditional Hindu blessing. It was a beautiful way to send off the fleet and a very special moment for many. ... [more]  

An international team of scientists, including the British Antarctic Survey, studied the geologic history of the area of the Antarctic Peninsula where the Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated, the portion of Antarctica that extends northwards toward South America. The new findings support the idea that such a dramatic collapse can be caused by surface warming. ... [more]  

The Baltic 4 Nations combines a traditional sailing rally with a flotilla holiday, all in the comfort of your own boat. A 370 mile, two week cruise, visiting some of the most beautiful locations in the southern Baltic. Hanseatic cities, quiet fishing harbours, bustling cities, and great beaches, with opportunities to sample local culture and cuisine as well as some great sailing! ... [more]  

Water expands in volume by about nine percent when it freezes, creating a staggering force that can crack a boat engine block, damage fiberglass, split hoses, or destroy a boat’s refrigeration system overnight. ... [more]  

The latest images from Marina Lanzarote show the new marina is looking smart and ready to welcome the yachts for the second Atlantic Odyssey which leaves in November 2014. Gazel Rebel, Blue Jade and Mahe’3, who will all be taking part, have already arrived, with more on the way. ... [more]  

The director of the Phuket Marine Office (PMO), Phuripat Theerakulpisut, yesterday (September 10) gave more details of two shock announcements that have reverberated through the Thai marine leisure industry and among yacht owners in the past few days. ... [more]  

Following on from the success of their Christmas Caribbean Rally (CCR) and Baltic 4 Nations Rally (B4N), Sailing Rallies announce the addition of two new events to their 2015-2016 events schedule: Antigua 2 Falmouth 2015 and the Spanish Rias Rally 2016. ... [more]  

World ARC crews in Bali by World Cruising Club
Today, September 11, 26 World ARC Crews spent the day on a tour to the Kintimani Volcano. Participants were treated to a wide range of cultural, religious and artistic experiences along the way. Benoa harbour is not the most attractive part of Bali so it was a welcome change of scenery, having escaped the morning rush hour, to firstly visit the culturally interesting town of Celuk. ... [more]  

Could your sailing navigation use a tune-up?
Images of marine sunsets by Tripadvisor
Citizen science model proposed to fill fundamental ocean data gap
Ocean Cruising Club celebrates 60th Anniversary with record gatherings
The Boat Cookbook
Indian Ocean-wide tsunami exercise to test readiness
Blue Planet Odyssey - Aventura makes landfall at St John’s
18 anti-piracy weapons for ships to fight pirates
World ARC fleet now arriving in Bali
EU Naval flagship- frigate assist yacht twice maydays in pirate zone
An offer a Galley Guy cannot refuse
World ARC fleet to enter Indian Ocean for the first time
What can you do to prevent electrocution and ESD?
Pack this sailing gear for 'hands-free' lighting
Salty Dawg Rally Seminar Series planned October 8 in Annapolis
Europe tightens up on skippers competency certification
World ARC fleet departs Darwin under full sail
NOAA expedition discovers ship’s timepiece silent for nearly 200 years
Blue Planet Odyssey - Northwest Passage gate opens
A Cruising Guide to the Dominican Republic 6.0 now available
Africa Europe Challenge introduces 'Spectator's Package'   
Niagara-on-the-Lake, a popular cruising destination in Canada   
The crowd-pleasing comforts of catamaran cruising   
'Sailing Stones' of Death Valley seen in action for the first time   
20 coral species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act   
A case of crossed wires? A shocking situation!   
OHPRI Teen Summer Camps make a splash   
How amazingly awe-inspiring the Arctic really is   
Boaters urged to attend anchoring meetings next week in Florida   
New atlas provides thorough audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean   
Canal Boating in the Alsace with the Galley Guys   
World ARC fleet arrives in Darwin   
Timeless Tonga - Charter sailing in a Polynesian paradise *Feature   
A fine conclusion to the ARC Baltic 2014   
Where in the world are our strongest corals?   
Incredible efforts to save yacht from being lost at sea   
ARC Baltic fleet visit six countries and six capitals in six weeks   
Helen Island, Palau -a beautiful and unique place   
Barnacle Busting   
From Penguins to Polar Bears   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW Cru USA
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT