Umbrella for the Earth

Published: Monday 15 November 1999

A solar sail may soon shield the Earth against solar storms. The sail will be stationed between the Earth and the Sun and will give warnings of solar storms that cause serious damage to phone networks, satellites and power grids. The sail will be hoisted on a lightweight spacecraft to be positioned 3.2 million km from the Earth in 2003. Titled Geostorms, a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, DC. "Positioning a craft beyond the liberation point, where the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Sun are equal, is very energy-intensive," says Patricia Mulligan, manager of Geostorms, adding: "A solar sail would allow us to keep that position." The tiny pressure of solar winds will keep the sails stiff, like the sails of a boat, and maintain the strategic position of the spacecraft.

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