It’s a long way to Pluto, and it would take a lot of conventional fuel to get a payload out there quickly. Rudolf Meyer of the University of California has designed a flexible solar membrane that could be used to power ion rockets after being unfurled in space. He calculates that, once thin film photoelectrics has reached the necessary sophistication and lightness, his design could get a probe to Pluto in about a year.
One thought on “Solar ‘Flying Carpet’ Proposed”
Interesting concept, but this struck me as just plain silly:
… or the dumping of crippled or spent spacecraft, would pollute interplanetary space with radioactive material.
Yeah, because right now the space in our solar system doesn’t have any radioactivity — oh, wait, yes it does. There’s a star nearby, which is a billion year nuclear explosion visible for hundreds of light years. I don’t think a tiny chunk of plutonium floating through the asteroid belt is going to “pollute” anything.
Still, I know there’s work being done on solar cells made of thin plastic, so the concept seems feasible. I wonder why they don’t mention the idea of firing lasers at it to provide additional energy? Also, I wonder if the idea could be merged with a solar sail?
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