Virgin Galactic might want to keep a close eye on NASA's mission to Jupiter this Friday. The Branson dream factory has taken a fair bit of flak over the environmental impact of it's space tourism jaunt, but now NASA looks set to pioneer a way of making inter-planetary flight as green as possible.
The Sceptic Tank was delighted to learn that NASA is so confident about the reliability of renewables it has installed a set of giant solar panels on the Juno spacecraft for its ever so slightly pricey $1,107bn trip to Jupiter.
Juno is certainly not the first spaceship to use solar panels, but it will be the first designed to operate at such a massive distance from the sun. Patrick Moore tells us Jupiter's orbit is five times further from the sun than Earth's, meaning it gets 25 times less sunlight.
But fear not readers, NASA has already cracked the problem and has no concern about south facing roofs or whether US feed-in tariffs extend to outer space.
Juno's 11 solar panels use an advanced technology with modern cells that are 50 per cent more efficient and radiation-tolerant than silicon cells available for space missions 20 years ago. Plus the panels will remain in sunlight continuously from launch through to the end of the mission, except for a few minutes when it sails past Earth.
Admittedly, solar technology isn't quite so advanced that it can blast the ship into orbit, but it will be helping NASA map the magnetic field of Jupiter and beam the data back to HQ.
Now if only NASA could get those wind turbine shaped spokes to capture Jupiter's 300 mile and hour winds, then it could really be on to something special.
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