There has been a lot of work by scientists and engineers on various propulsion methods for reaching the other planets of our solar system and reducing the cost of going to the moon. Chemical rockets are very expensive and inefficient. They have to carry the tremendous weight of their liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel which reduces the amount of weight left over for the payload. Chemical rockets are really only needed to get off the earth’s surface and into space. Once in space, methods that involve more gradual acceleration but use little to no propellant can be utilized to get around far more efficiently and at a much lower cost. One such method that FreedomPop users have been hearing buzz about is the idea of a solar sail that deploys and uses the sun’s energy to propel it.
The first step in such a solar sail propulsion method has been taken recently. A small version of this concept, in the form of a spacecraft named LightSail, has been launched into space. After a few problems along the way, LightSail successfully deployed its solar sail. The sail is about the size of a basketball court and it is made to be struck by energy from the sun to propel it forward at very gradual acceleration. This first one is a tiny test version and is expected to enter and burn up in the earth’s atmosphere before long, but a second mission is already planned to continue to develop this propulsion method.