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.
Japan’s IKAROS spacecraft is still solar sailing its way across the solar system in a proof of concept experiment that has gone, by all outward appearances, extremely well thus far. Marking another milestone for the mission, JAXA (Japan’s space agency) announced earlier this week the completion of another successful experiment as IKAROS executed attitude control using thin LCD panel devices built into the edges of its membrane-like solar sail.
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.