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Solar sail engineers from around the world gathered in Brooklyn last week for the Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing. Ben Diedrich, fellow caver, solar sail expert, and the man behind wiki.solarsails.info, gave two papers. He also emailed me to say that “Japan’s contingent gave several talks – many of which compared analysis of deployment, flight, or steering with actual flight data” of Ikaros. A review of the program [pdf] revealed some fascinating uses for solar sails. I like this paper title the best: “Deflecting Apophis with a flotilla of solar sails.” [ed. Apophis is an asteroid with the potential of hitting the Earth.]
Update: Japanese scientists have now announced that they have been able to adjust Ikaros’s attitude using sunlight.
Another update: Ben Diedrich emailed me the link to read the actual proceedings from the conference. See pg 103 to read the paper on using solar sails to deflect Apophis.