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Hey There, Solar Sailor

The privately sponsored Cosmos-1 solar sail is scheduled for liftoff today, courtesy of a boost from a Russian Volna rocket, deployed from a Russian nuclear submarine positioned in the Barents Sea.

Solar sails are cool. And what better excuse to list some solar sails in science fiction!

  • [1960] “The Lady Who Sailed The Soul“, the earliest use of a solar sail in sf.
  • [1962] “Sail 25” (a.k.a. “Gateway to Strangeness”) by Jack Vance.
  • [1963] “Think Blue, Count Two” by Cordwainer Smith, a sequel to “The Lady Who Sailed The Soul“.
  • [1963] La planete des singes (Planet of the Apes) by Pierre Boulle, describes a ship that uses basic principles of solar sails.
  • [1964] “The Wind from the Sun” (a.k.a. “Sunjammer”) by Arthur C. Clarke, a short story (in an anthology of the same name) describing a solar sail craft. Clarke is often credited with the first use of a solar sail in sf.
  • [1964] “Sunjammer” by Poul Anderson, a short story that shares tha name of the Clarke story, but was released one month later.
  • [1974] The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle depicts an alien spacecraft driven by laser-powered light sails.
  • [1981] Windhaven by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle.
  • [1990] Rocheworld (a.k.a. The Flight of the Dragonfly in a 1984 abbreviated version) by Robert L. Forward, a novel about an interstellar mission driven by laser-powered light sails.
  • [1995] The Star Trek: DS9 episode “Explorers”, as primary propulsion system of the “Bajoran solar-sail vessel”.
  • [2002] Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, in which Count Dooku has a starsail spacecraft dubbed ‘Sunsailor’.
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

3 Comments on Hey There, Solar Sailor

  1. Here’s a flash-driven solar sail site [via Alien Online]

  2. Launch went off, but the probe hasn’t been heard from. Some speculation that one of the stages may have exploded. Keep your fingers crossed!!! I want to see that thing go!

  3. As of this moment it looks like they got some telemetry from the spacecraft, just not what they expected. If you want to follow what’s going on yourself, check out the blog they setup to fill us all in.

    Whenever spacecraft launches go wrong, I’m always amazed at how complicated sending an object to orbit is. Robert Goddard made it look so easy – he was sending up rockets in the 1920’s after all. Of course, I can replicate his experiments today and it would be called model rocketry. In his day those were the only rockets there were, so they weren’t models of anything – they were the real deal.

    I guess the issue with slipping the surly bonds of earth is not sending an object to orbit – that’s probably easy enough. What we want is to send a computer into orbit and then talk to it and control it – and that’s significantly harder. It seems that computers and batteries and solar cells don’t like being subjected to the forces required to overcome Earth’s gravity.

    While I’m on the subject I was always enthralled with Goddard as a kid and viewed him as a hero of sorts. He moved forward with his work despite popular opinion being against him and laid the foundation that allowed men to travel into space. He seems just as important to humankind as the Wright brothers.

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