Solar sails gone bad

With all the discussion of late about the politics of space weaponization, I couldn’t help but pass along this commentary identifying the latest threat to peace in the cosmos. (Warning: we recommend that you complete any beverage you may be drinking before viewing this article. We cannot be held responsible for any damage that may be caused to your keyboard, laptop, etc., if you spit up said beverage while reading this article.)

17 comments to Solar sails gone bad

  • Matthew Corey Brown

    This kind of attitude to space is more prevalent then we realize. Granted this as a more anti-western slant, BUT I see the same sort of environmental slant against space.

  • Jonathan Goff


    I didn’t take enough time to look too far, but was this guy actually serious, or was that deadpan? I mean, one way or another it was hilarious, I’m just trying to figure if the joke was on the wingbats, or on himself…..


  • No doubt it will be in the New York Times tomorrow :P

  • It is strikingly fashionable in the blogosphere to ridicule or even blame the New York Times for the sins of other news desks.

  • Perhaps it’s because so many newsdesks (and broadcast news outlets) foolishly continue to take their leads from the Times.

  • No, the New York Times has nothing to do with this silly story about solar sails as space weapons, and never will. Just like it never printed a lot of other stories that certain critics associate with it.

    It is true that many news desks did and will use what the Times actually printed about the solar sail project, but there is nothing foolish about it.

  • Cecil Trotter

    “No, the New York Times has nothing to do with this silly story about solar sails as space weapons, and never will. ”

    Never? Never say never.

    The fact remains that the NYT IS a liberal rag and nothing more.

  • Matthew Corey Brown

    slightly OT, but reports are that the first stage of the VOLNA craft stoped 83 seconds after liftoff, i have not found a nominal firing time of a first stage of a volna. (total flight is 6 minutes 17 seconds)

    There is evidence it made orbit but depending how you spin what the planetary society has said it also could have been slighlty sub orbital. (ie no confirmation that a second pass signal detection occured)

    so anyone know the nominal firing time of stage one?

  • Greg, on this one you and I are in complete agreement.

    Although many conservatives hate it, I believe the New York Times is by far the best paper in the nation, and possibly in the world. The fact that many of my liberal friends also hate the paper for being too conservative reinforces my opinion. They publish a lot of stuff that conservatives and liberals alike do not want to hear, but that alone defines them as “good.” As I’ve said here before, the last thing I want to read is a paper that I always agree with.

    The NYT is hardly a “liberal rag.” It’s current politics, in these outlandishly conservative times, are probably about where Nixon’s were in a more civilized age. Although I rarely have time any more to read the paper in detail, I continue to subscribe because I believe such an institution should continue to exist. Otherwise, I’d have to get that oh-so-unbiassed source, The Wall Street Journal.

    — Donald

  • billg

    Indymedia: Propaganda from people who believe they have a lock on the truth and are quite happy to lie to foster their ideological agenda. The mirror image of Rush and friends, in many regards.

    The NYT: It is quite possible for the NYT to be the best newspaper in the counry and slant leftwards. Or rightwards, for that matter. Quality journalism and reporting don’t require neutering the journalists and the reporters. “Balance”, at least as that word is used in the FOX/AM radio/theocon universe, doesn’t exist in the real world and, therefore, has no reason to exist in journals reporting on it. Let’s worry about our imbalanced politicians first.

    (And, sure, many news outlet follow the lead of the NYT and a few other big papers. That’s because only a very newspapers can afford to hire enough staff to break and report stories of national scope. I mean, there’s no reason to follow the lead of the Skunksville Gazette, is there?)

  • As conservative journals go, I’ve always rather like The Economist. They have a sense of humor — one of the funniest things I ever read was their translation of “Newtspeak” into real English — and they are willing to go against the party line. They are even willing to admit they were wrong, as when they endorsed Mr. Bush during his first Presidential election.

    Interestingly, their views of human spaceflight are about where the NYT’s were two decades ago — and just as wrong.

    — Donald

  • Greg has the wrong idea. I wasn’t criticizing the New York Times in general, I was indirectly poking fun at their previous space weapons article circa when Star Wars came out.

    I think most people agree that article fell far from the mark where reality is concerned.

  • Fair enough. It is true that the space weapons in that old New York Times article are completely unrealistic. However, it is less clear who is ultimately responsible for that unrealism, the New York Times, or the Pentagon.

  • The Pentagon were unprepared to counter the unfounded speculation in that article; they suffered for it and the White House suffered for it. Next the State Department will be suffering for it in the UN.

  • You should be libertarian enough not to worry too much about the government “suffering” at the hands of privately owned newspapers. If a report about a crazy research program like “Rods from God” embarrasses the Pentagon, then the Pentagon should wipe that program from the face of Washington, instead of criticizing newspapers for taking it seriously.

  • alex b

    Nice read. Keep it going. Spiderfriend333

  • Steve Mickler

    Regarding Charlene Anderson’s comment that solar sails could reach 100,000 mph… is not quite as inane as it sounds at first blush. I beleive she was merely conflating two seperate ideas and I would guess she knows the difference between them quite well. The 100,000 refers to current or near term capability, and the latter part to what can be developed from this tech. Actually, with trajectories that closely approach the Sun, the velocity possible can reach more than ten times the 100,000 she mentions. Laser light sails are very similar and do hold the promise of fast trips to the stars at least in theory.
    The idea that orbiting mirrors, like those proposed in the 80’s for missle defense, could be used as weapons is obviously accurate, but of course, the solar sail architecture is useless for this purpose as a practical matter, because it is not a concentrator mirror and even if it was, it would lack the structural rigidity needed to focus a laser effectively on any surface target.