"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Cosmos Clearinghouse for December 2011

Solar Sail To The Rescue

It turns out solar sailing, using energy from the sun to propel spacecraft, may help improve quality of life on Earth. Observing spacecraft powered by solar sails could provide more advanced warning time. Warning time to whom? And for what? To operators of satellites and power grids so they can brace for harmful solar flares. This brief NASA video includes some great footage and graphics.

Regular readers know I have blogged about solar sails before. I am a fan. For some background, you can read my post Harnessing "The Wind From the Sun"

Dawn Spacecraft Getting Even Closer to Vesta

Also proving the relevance and wonder of space exploration is the Dawn spacecraft. As I write these words, Dawn is in a low orbit that brings it within 130 miles of the asteroid Vesta. In addition to radiation and gravity data, Dawn's successful orbit of the second largest asteroid in the main belt brings us one step closer to human exploration. Given that similar objects have routinely struck the Earth and likely will again, the need to be well-practiced at intercepting them should be obvious. Sadly, it isn't obvious to many, including elected officials. So here is another reason to explore asteroids and comets that should reach a wider swath of humanity: mining profits.

Artist concept based on Dawn images of the asteroid Vesta
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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