LESSONS FROM THE AGE OF EUROPEAN MARINE EXPLORATION FOR THE SPACE AGE.
From the Book "PROTOCOLS" (c) 2012 by American Admiralty Books
A COMING AGE OF SAIL?
Solar Sails May Propel Our Solar System Ships At Near light Speed Bringing The Outer Reaches Of The Solar System Into Reach Without Multi- Year long Round Trips.
|A NASA ILLUSTRATION OF A "NANO SAIL"|
When the Earth's seas are viewed from high altitude flight or near earth orbit the surface appears quite smooth. When we descend to the level that Coast Guard helicopters usually operate at , the surface becomes much more textured even in "light airs". Embark on that surface in a small dingy and it is anything but calm.
In a like manner Space is not the perfect vacuum, placid and void from all angles of approach and at all scales. On the human scale the space between the stars is vast and empty. For many 'practical purposes" this is so. But evolving technology continually redefines what are "practical purposes". In fact on both certain macro and micro levels Space is filled with flotsam, jetsam, foam, froth, and currents. At the subatomic level it is especially a roiling ocean. The quanta, particles and virtual particles constantly coursing through the ocean of space present the would be spacefarer with problems and opportunities reminiscent of some of the challenges and opportunities reminiscent of the age of sail. We must build space craft resistant to damage from these various "cosmic rays', just as a sailing craft had to be storm resistant and stable over a wide range of sea conditions. Yet these very phenomena, like the wind of the Earth's oceans, present us with a resource for propulsion. While such things as "cosmic rays" must be factored into the design and definition of a "staunch ship" for space, similar phenomena in forms such as the "solar wind"offer us a ready potential propulsive resource.
On the oceans of the World today we can observe sail, steam reciprocating engines, steam turbines , diesel, diesel-electric, and atomic engines propelling commercial and naval vessels. As we search for the propulsion system that will take us to the stars, we undoubtedly will experiment with a few technologies, that while not the the system to takes us to distant stars, still will be useful and long used for a variety of purposes. Among these may well be "particle sails".
"Particle sails" (AKA "nano sails") refers to systems that capture or convert the energy of " cosmic ray-like phenomena" such as "solar winds" into propulsion for space craft. Freed from rocket propulsion and rocket fuel such craft will be able to carry greater pay loads and will probably be characterized by extremely long range, or long on scene endurance. Range and endurance, coupled with greater pay load capability will be especially important in unmanned probes. Economy is another attraction of such technology. Some such craft may be no larger than present "pond yachts". Such "particle or nano sail"pond yacht sized probes might be launched from an orbiting construction shop via an air lock with little more effort than the hobbyist who sets the tiller and sheet line on his pond yacht and sets it to sail on a pond in a city park. Many such probes could be fabricated in space from materials and components boosted up by rocket to an orbiting shop. However, it would not be economic to launch such delicate and small craft by individual rockets from the Earth's surface. Just as commercial sail survives in certain fisheries and inter-island trades, to say nothing of recreation and tourist trades there may well be multiple uses for the "particle sail" craft in manned configurations. The best place to build and experiment with such craft is from near Earth orbit.
At the subatomic level space near home such as near Earth orbit is made pretty much of the same stuff as "deep space". Space throughout the observable universe is pretty much composed of the same elements, particles, and quanta.So if we build space craft large and small in near Earth orbit we have our model test tank, and full scale test basin immediately at hand. So as we search for propulsion system breakthroughs to take us to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond we find a need for work in space. Near space for this purpose is as good as far, but cheaper. Cheaper means more research funds on target, more research, faster progress. So here we find another reason for an expanded space station, an experimental station and production facility for future particle sail vessels and other small unmanned probes. To these reasons add a shipyard for the construction of big, probably rocket propelled at first solar system expedition ships., a training center, and geophysical and astrophysical observatories and you find ample reason to focus our manned space flight resources at this time on a space station, and ever cheaper and more reliable ways to get back and forth from it.
Research and routine technological improvement is never as splashy as a moon landing or Man on Mars. But man back to the moon or to Mars would be a waste of resources right now. Our next planetary manned missions should be to establish permanent bases. Ocean history suggest that this takes a fleet not a single craft. Consider the first voyage of Columbus. He took three ships, lost one. He left behind a contingent with the intent of returning . He did return but his contingent did not survive. It took multiple Atlantic crossings by multiple ships before a permanent settlement at Hispaniola was established. Surely there are many lessons from the "European Recognizance" applicable to the immediate future of the "Space Age". Not the least important of these lessons is the fact that Henry the Navigator of Portugal founded a navigational institute to foster the growth and development of navigational arts and sciences and the ever improving charting of Earth's waters and coasts prior to the greatest voyages of the European Recognizance. It was not an accident that Henry physically located his institute on the very edge of the sea rather than in the heart of his capital. It is time to move a major part of our research and developmental efforts to the edge of the "Ocean of Space".
The boon to mankind in viewing space as an ocean is the ability to draw exciting historical parallels. These parallels aid in the ability of the public to understand where we are going. To a public aware that we have been technologically capable of a Mars landing for decades, our virtually unexplained pause looks like politics as usual. As public interest lags, the will to fund the effort lags and progress slows even more. But a public that understands the coming decades of station and shuttle improvement as the historic parallel of the founding of Henry's "School of Navigation" may be able to maintain interest. Within such a context the present pause may be seen as an absolutely necessary prelude. The public excitement to continue and progress should be sustainable. Perhaps more importantly the pressure to do a parlor stunt of a manned mission in order to re-foster public support
should wain. A public taught to see our space efforts in terms of the historic age of the European Recognizance by sea would understand and support each necessary step. There is no one to beat to Mars. We are going there as an international community and we are going to stay. The first step is to establish our "institute", ou rport, and shipyard on the edge of the Ocean Space. From there and not the earth bound rocket launch platforms we will launch many future voyages.
SOME FINAL NOTES:
The Reality of Particle Sail Technology
The concept of solar sailing was first described by FrederikTsander. Articles on the concept first began to appear in America in the 1950s by authors unaware of the earlier work by Tsander. In the late 1970s the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) undertook serious studies in particle sail technology anticipating it's possible use in the 1986 Halley's comet rendezvous mission. Ultimately the Halley's comet mission was dropped due to budget constraints. In 1979 the World Space Organization started a solar sail experiment. This experiment resulted in the construction of a small sail and a successful ground test. The scientific consensus coming out of the JPL, World Space Foundation, University of Utah College of Engineering, the Battelle Memorial Institute , and elsewhere where significant research and experimentation in particle sails has taken place is that the particle sail, and particle sail propelled ships are practical, relatively low cost technology with significant potential in space transportation. Between 1976 and 1977 the JPL was successful in establishing a technology base for such devices, but particle sail technology development remains on the back burner at both NASA and JPL where the present budgetary focus is on continuing unmanned planetary and deep space missions , the continuing development of the International Space Station and the next generation Space Shuttle.
Solar sailing - using the sun as a propellant - offers the possibility of low-cost long-distance missions that are impossible with conventional spacecraft. This first comprehensive book on this propulsion method provides a detailed account of solar sailing, at a high technical level, but in a way accessible to the scientifically informed layperson. Solar sail orbital dynamics and solar radiation pressure form the foundations of the book, but the engineering design of solar sails is also considered, along with potential mission applications.