The Planetary Society hopes to launch a solar-powered space ship this year, propelled by solar rays striking large sails. Solar sails, long a component of science fiction, should allow scientists to save money by avoiding the need for rocket fuel.
The mission, sponsored by Cosmos Studios, is designed as a test of concept–to prove that solar sails can work as a means of propulsion.
Cosmos Studios is the baby of Ann Druyan, wife of the late science-popularizer Carl Sagan, a hero of mine. Sagan urged the Planetary Society, and other private organizations, to fund spaceflight research and stop relying on government agencies to launch spacecraft. This long-delayed flight, if it proves successful, will finally fulfill a dream of Sagan’s and take humanity one step closer to the stars.