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Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review: Solar Sails


Solar Sails, by Giovanni Vulpetti, Les Johnson, and Gregory Matloff, is an in-depth look at solar sailing technologies, and where they could take us in the future. Solar Sails takes a look at solar sailing in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term futures.

The book is composed of two main sections, one of which takes a look at solar sailing development from a non-technical viewpoint, while the latter section is a technical look at solar sailing mechanics and engineering. Lately I've been pretty interested in solar sails and advanced propulsion devices since they are our only hope of ever actually reaching the stars in a reasonable time frame. The authors of Solar Sails show why solar sailing may be the propulsion method of the future.

In regards to the future of solar sailing, the authors state:

"Moving forward a few decades, we can reasonably expect major improvements in sail technology. Various sail structures and unfurlment techniques will have been perfected. Sails will be thinner, stronger, and more temperature resistant. A number of exciting mission opportunities could implemented during this time frame."

- Solar Sails: Vulpetti, Johnson, Matloff


Such optimism is present throughout the book. The authors, however, aren't afraid to tell of our shortcomings, and therefore provide a realistic look at what we could have working in the mid-term and long-term future.

As an engineer, I also enjoy the technical chapters of the book, which dive deeper into the equations and physics that govern such a spacecraft. While this section can probably be skipped by a non-technical reader, if you have any background in science, you should be able to enjoy the technical chapters, too.

That said, I would recommend this book regardless of your technical expertise, as the non-technical sections do a great job of being clear and concise. However, if you want the details, they are also in the technical section, proving that this book has a lot to offer to both non-technical and technical readers.

Pick up your own copy of the book at Amazon!

33 comments:

RevAaron said...

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book and enjoying it so far. Haven't read a good semi-technical spaceflight book in a while, it's very refreshing.

Sean Welton said...

About 2/3 of the way into the book is where it starts to get into technical orbital stuff. I think you'll enjoy it!

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