NASA Solar Sail being deployed with all four sections for the first time Photo: NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC)
NASA's vision of solar sailing Photo: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA-MSFC)
Electric Solar Sail diagram Image: Kumpula Space Centre
Electric solar sail moves closer to reality Photo: Antonin Halas
April 16, 2008 It's a striking image made popular in sci-fi classics like the recent Star Wars films - a spacecraft hurtles through the galaxy propelled by gigantic reflective sails that use of solar radiation in place of on-board fuel . Space organizations around the world including NASA are pursuing this technology, but a rapidly evolving project from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has taken a radically different approach by using long metallic tethers and a solar-powered electron gun to create an "electric sail" that looks very different from the depictions of pressure sails with which we have become familiar.
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