Solar Sail Takes Flight! Japan Launches 1st ‘Spaceship’ Powered by Sunshine

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The jaxa launch

Imagine a giant kite floating in space, but instead of wind, it uses the sun’s rays to move! This isn’t science fiction – Japan actually launched the very first spaceship powered by sunlight in 2010! They called it Ikaros, after the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of feathers and wax.

This spaceship doesn’t use solar panels like you might see on a calculator. Instead, it has a huge sail, like a kite, that captures the tiny particles of light from the sun called photons. Even though each photon is super weak, when millions hit the sail at once, they create a tiny push that propels the spacecraft forward!

NASA's Nanosail-D Released into the Winds of Space - Universe Today
NASA’s Solar Sail Satellite

This idea of using sunlight for space travel has been around for hundreds of years, but Japan was the first to make it a reality. Their Ikaros spacecraft had a sail as big as a house, and they even figured out a way to steer it using special crystals!

The Ikaros sailed all the way to Venus, our hot neighbor planet, in just six months! That’s pretty impressive for a spaceship powered only by sunshine.

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