Space exploration takes my breath away. When you think about all the physics and long-term planning that goes into something as complex as exploring the other planets of our solar system it is astounding that we are able to accomplish anything at all. Why the scientists and engineers doing this diligent work are not lauded as heroes every day is beyond me!
Jon - Website Designers
@Duane B: I was thinking the same thing. But if the sail acts as a mirror, the reflected photons can be aimed "forward", pushing the craft away from the Earth into a lagging orbit. Relatively, the probe is slowing down and the Sun's gravity will pull it in. It's like a drag chute instead of a mainsail. Huge guess, but I'm sure some rocket scientist here can set us right.
Am I missing something here? Wouldn't the solar cell capture photons coming from the sun to push the probe away from the sun? And wouldn't the trip to Venus require that the probe go toward the sun? I think Venus is about 25% of an orbit behind the Earth right now, so the probe would be heading just slightly in from perpendicular to the path of the photons. I wouldn't think a solar sail could tack like a wind sail here on earth because that utilizes aerodynamics, not Newtonian force.