the U.S. led in the space race, exploring the moon and sending probes
to distant stars. Now that's far from the case, as funding to
the U.S. space program has
been cut and goals scaled back. Fortunately, there are
plenty of other innovative nations willing to step in and pick up the
slack.Japan last month launched
the first full solar sail craft into space, transforming a
science fiction dream into reality. The craft, IKAROS,
successfully deployed its solar sail.Now the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency has updated the
world on its progress. The sail is performing extremely well,
constantly accelerating, with every passing day.Japanese
researchers calculated that each photon striking the sail exerts
0.00025 pounds of force on the sail. That force adds up slowly,
speeding up the the 3,000 square foot sail and its attached 700-pound
payload.With the new Japanese success, solar sail look to
become the new gold standard for deep space propulsion, until better
engines) are more fully developed. And the success is a
sign of Japan's growing presence as a space pioneer.Japan
plans to land a robotic
army on the moon, starting a few years from now. In the
private sector, the Planetary Society, a space research group,
and Cosmos Studios of Ithaca, N.Y., headed by Ann Druyan, a film
producer and widow of the late astronomer and author Carl Sagan,
the LightSail-1, another solar sail design, into space late
quote: Fortunately, there are plenty of other innovative nations willing to step in and pick up the slack.
quote: This was the first year that mandatory expenditures exceeded tax revenues.
quote: The problem is that solar sails work best when going away from the sun.
quote: The fastest way to send a solar sail probe to the outer solar system is to dive at the sun to get a large acceleration on closest approach.
quote: NASA is yet again left behind in the space race
quote: Yes jason, we are sooooo behind. As if we care