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Take Flight

May 18, 2010
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I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
-John Masefield from "Sea-Fever"
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is set to launch their solar power sail demonstrator at the end of this week. Solar sails have long been one of those talked about future propulsion methods for space travel. Rockets can get us into space but the amount of fuel you have to carry with you begins to become cumbersome in the event of a longer trip which certainly will be an issue some day. I like NASA's Ideas Based on What We'd Like to Achieve. They discuss the difficult to imagine as being practical (worm holes and warp drives) to the theoretically brilliant if we could ever build it or get it to work (negative mass propulsion, the idea cleverly underutilized in science fiction though it can be seen in the Mass Effect videogame series by Bioware).
 
I'm a bit cheered by all these high profile international efforts for space exploration. Perhaps once our "space dominance" is truly tested will we realize what an enormous field we are neglecting if we allow interstellar travel to be only the playground of the private sector.
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