Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009

     Once upon a time, we used to call it "the good, gray New York Times."   No longer.      The lead in a story in yesterday's paper is, "Peter Pan would be so happy." They've discovered that colorful writing and news aren't enemies.  The story itself is quite wonderful.  Seems that sometime in the next year or so the Planetary Society, with help from an anonymous donor, will be taking a tiny step toward travel to the stars.  The stars themselves will help.      Once aloft, the tiny satellite--about the size of a loaf of bread, the Times says, will unfurl four triangular sails that will gather power from light--sunlight, starlight, whatever.  The craft--Lightsail 1--won't travel very far, but it's a start.  The Society will launch successors, some in orbit around earth, some beyond.       In theory, a solar sail can veer and tack, like any other sail.  And, of course, it won't have to carry a kazillion tons of rocket fuel.  Could humans ride it?  Maybe we, or our kids, will find out.  Freeman Dyson, of Princeton's  Institute for Advanced Studies, says "We ought to be doing things that are romantic"      They are.
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