Is sailing in outer space closer than we think?

Ever wondered what it would be like to sail in outer space? We’re guessing your answer is no. But, as it turns out, space sailing could very soon become a reality. At least according to the Planetary Society in the US.

Here’s what we discovered on the topic.

Setting sail in outer space

Chief executive of The Planetary Society and Science Guy Bill Nye told Adelaide’s International Astronautical Congress that a spacecraft with sails is “…ready to go”.

The Light Sail 2 will be on the next rocket set for the stars.

“We’re waiting for a ride, as we say, on the second SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket,” he said.

How does a sail propelled space craft work?

The LightSail 2 is propelled by a solar sail, which uses the sun’s energy to push it along. The particles of light from the sun are caught in fine sails, which are manufactured from very thin reflective film.

According to Nye, sunlight technically has no mass, but particles of light do have momentum, which is pure energy. This is what pushes the space craft along.

Nye went on to say that the spacecraft in question would need to have a very low mass to be pushed by sunlight.

Given space is such a large vacuum, the LightSail 2 is likely to be light enough for a successful trial.

What’s the point of sailing in space?

This question is a lot easier for us to wrap our heads around. In short, the answer is energy.

Just like on the water, sailing is an energy efficient means of travel. In space, this means cheaper explorations, which will save expeditions big money.

Space crafts with sails could also be used to direct satellites, by attaching to them and guiding them along in space.

Nye pointed out that some people think they could be used to de-orbit satellites once they are no longer needed.

The most obvious use would be for space crafts that have run out of fuel, but still require direction.

Can people sail in space?

Not just yet! Although we think it would be pretty cool to set sail in outer space, this technology is out of reach at the moment.

As Nye told the Congress in Adelaide, we’re not likely to see a space craft with sails large enough to support the carriage of human beings.

Setting sail on the water?

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