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Arthur Clarke’s DNA Spacebound

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sunjammerArthur Clarke’s dreams of going to space didn’t die when he did. And in 2014, they’re going to come true. Better late than never, right?

NASA plans to send Clarke’s DNA on the solar-powered Sunjammer spacecraft, which in November 2014 will launch on a 1.9-million-mile voyage to the sun.

The Sunjammer Cosmic Archive is a flying time capsule that carries blueprints for human genetic codes. In addition to Clarke’s DNA, the Sunjammer will carry DNA of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel, who also acted on Star Trek, as well as James “Scotty” Doohan. Clarke, who penned such seminal sci-fi works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood’s End, and Rendezvous with Rama, also came up with the name Sunjammer—it was the title of one of his short stories.

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NASA Launching Sunjammer Solar Sail In November 2014

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NASA's SunjammerNASA will be setting a new record in November 2014. That’s when they plan to deploy the largest solar sail ever, a craft dubbed “Sunjammer.” It takes its name from an Arthur C. Clarke short story about a solar-sail yacht race.

Nearly a quarter of the size of a football field The Sunjammer‘s sails will have a surface area of 13,000 square feet. The sail will be constructed by L’Garde Inc. in Tustin, California, and Sunjammer will hitch a ride skyward atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Nathan Barnes, L’Garde’s chief operating officer and executive vice president, said, “With this sail, we’re targeting our end goal somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,864,114 miles (3 million kilometers) distance from the Earth.”

Solar sails are a form of “propellantless propulsion.” Just as traditional sails rely on the wind to push a boat, solar sails use photons from our sun to push a craft along. Since they don’t require any fuel, solar sails could be uniquely suited to missions such as observing the sun or visiting near-Earth asteroids. Lee Johnson is deputy manager of the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He said of Sunjammer:

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NASA Launching World’s Largest Solar Sail In 2014

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It’s been many years since gas prices were at a level that was actually fitting for the product’s worth. But for all the griping I could do, I can’t deny the convenience of a gas station. If I’m traveling somewhere far, I don’t have to worry about stocking up all the fuel I’d need beforehand, because I know I can just stop at some point along the way. Astronauts and their spacecraft do not have this luxury, and as such, the freedom of space travel has been a limited commodity for humankind. But let’s imagine a craft that wouldn’t need the heavy, space-wasting bulk of liquid propellant in order to travel from one planet to the next.

The only way to travel.

The only way to travel.