Solar Sails

Solar sails are the only method of spacecraft propulsion in which no fuel is needed. Until recently spacecraft powered by solar sails were the stuff of science fiction. However,  following the success of the Japanese spacecraft IKAROS which flew close to Venus in 2010, and in 2019 the crowd-funded Light Sail 2 spacecraft it is… Continue reading Solar Sails

Space stations past and present

The International Space Station (ISS) is now 20 years old. In this post I’ll talk about the history of the ISS and other space stations, and I’ll also touch on some of the politics involved. Image from NASA Early space stations Although America was the first country to put a man on the Moon, the… Continue reading Space stations past and present

The early days of the space race

In my previous post I talked about two significant successes for the Soviet Union in 1957: the first artificial satellite in orbit in October and the first living creature, a dog named Laika, in orbit in November. In December of that year the Americans had a humiliating failure when the Vanguard spacecraft exploded in a… Continue reading The early days of the space race

Philae has landed

Like millions over people I was cheered to see that the probe Philae landed successfully on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet after a 6.4 billion km ten year journey. In a mission this complex there will inevitably be a few hiccups and the biggest one so far has been that the probe has been unable to secure itself to… Continue reading Philae has landed