For all the apocalypse talk that gets tossed around by psuedo-scientists and religious blowhards, rarely do we hear mention of Apophis, the 50 million-ton asteroid that actually might come close enough to Earth to warrant an end-of-the-world scare sometime in 2029. In that year it will pass so close to us that we'll be able figure the trajectory for its return trip in 2036. If it passes through an area of space near our home planet known as the "keyhole," it spells doom--on its return pass in 2036 it likely would strike us.
Ever since space travel began, there has been exactly one way to reach the heavens: rocket engines. But now an entirely new approach is set to launch-a strategy that fights the unyielding pull of gravity with the gentle push of sunlight. The anticipated December blastoff of the Cosmos 1 spacecraft from a Russian submarine will debut the age of solar sailing.