The 20m (diagonally) solar sail Ikaros we mentioned last month has been successfully unfurled in space by its Japanese team. Now it’s a waiting game to see if it can be used for solar-powered travel as planned.
The sail was created using super-thin aluminiumised plastic – so thin, in fact, that it’s roughly the same size of a red blood cell’s diameter, at 0.0003 inches thick. Reflecting the solar radiation back at the sun, it will hopefully propel itself through space, becoming a viable form of space-transport for the future. I can see us all now, riding these solar sails like windsails (sunglasses firmly attached to our faces). [Jaxa via Wired]