Thursday, March 15, 2007

How Does One Charge A Magnetic Sail? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

Magnetic Sails hold much promise into allowing humanity to travel our solar system at not only an increased amount of speed, but reduced costs as well.

Unfortunately scientists seem to be pondering on which method is best to actually charge these theoretical crafts, as the details of either choice tend to be a "bit messy."

(New Scientist Space) But the amount of charge held by a sphere at a given voltage, a quantity known as its capacitance, is not very large. Long, thin filaments, on the other hand, have a lot of charge-holding surface area, so one possible design involves many filaments attached to the spacecraft. The setup would have a rather comical look – because of the static charge, the filaments would stick out in all directions, like newly brushed dry hair. [...]

A cylindrical mesh of fibres - resembling a stocking – could also be attached to the spacecraft. To charge itself up, the stocking could be coated with a radioisotope, and one of the most powerful would be polonium-210, the isotope used to poison former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. But it should be safe to use on the stocking, says Peck, "as long as people working on the spacecraft don't lick it".

Although polonium-210 would provide an excellent alternative to the thin filaments, scientists seem to be struggling with ways on "turning it off," a very important feature if one wants to actually slow down.

Regardless of the method scientist propose, one thing they were clear about was that Earth's magnetic field, although powerful enough to keep our planet alive from radiation may be too weak to be truly effective for travel towards planets like Mars.

They are proposing instead that these spacecraft head out towards Jupiter, whose field may be strong enough to launch these ships quickly to other worlds.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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