Solar Sails: From Science Fiction to Reality in 20 Years

Posted by Michael Pinto on Nov 10, 2008 in Science |

Chinese Cargo Ships Will Have Solar Sails

I just spotted the following news item which seemed very oddly familiar to me:

Chinese Cargo Ships Will Have Solar Sails

“Australian company Solar Sailor has signed a deal with the largest Chinese shipping line COSCO to fit their tankers with large solar-powered sails. The sails are 30 meters long, covered with solar PV panels that will provide 5 percent of the ships’ electricity and will harness enough wind to reduce fuel costs by 20 to 40 percent. The sails are controlled by a computer that angles them for maximum wind and solar efficiency and the company claims that the sails will pay for themselves within four years.”

It then hit me that I had seen the concept of solar sails years ago in 1985 in the science fiction anime film Odin – Starlight Mutiny (オーディーン 光子帆船スターライト):

“In the year 2099, mankind has colonized parts of the Solar System thanks to the evolution of space travel. To venture further beyond what man has accomplished, the space vessel Starlight is launched. After rescuing a mysterious girl from a wreckage near the asteroid fields, the crew of the Starlight plot a perilous journey towards the Canopus system in search of the planet known only as “Odin” – the possible key to all forms of life.”

By the way if that plot of the movie reminds you of Star Blazers it’s because the movie was produced by Yoshinobu Nishizaki who also produced all of the Space Cruiser Yamato films and TV shows. Here’s a music video (of sorts) which shows footage of the nautical looking spacecraft from Odin that features solar sails:

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