Friday, July 11, 2008

Solar Challenges

The North American Solar Challenge is about to start. This is a race of college teams running solar cars from Texas up to Winnipeg and then across to Calgary. Preliminary checks are under way, and the actual race starts on Sunday. I wouldn't consider this a race of consumer-friendly vehicles in the sense that the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE attempts to be, but it looks fun and it has its place in the world of engineering and education. Just don't do what I foolishly did one year and get in their sun when they're soaking it up between races.

There's also a World Solar Challenge solar car race scheduled for October 2009 in Australia.

The Frisian Solar Challenge in Holland is similar, but it's for boats. Here's an article with an image gallery of the scenic route.

If you can have solar cars and solar boats, why not have a long-lasting solar powered airplane over Venus, above the thicker layers of that planet's atmosphere? That Universe Today link will take you to the paper Atmospheric Flight on Venus by authors like Geoffrey A. Landis. Towards the end of the paper comes this idea (and I recall many years ago reading an SF story with a similar, but balloon-based, idea):

Ultimately we could even envision colonization of the Venus atmosphere. Space colonies are widely discussed as a way of expanding the presence of humans into the solar system. The atmosphere of Venus is potentially the best place in the solar system to locate space colonies. It is rich in resources, and at a temperature and pressure hospitable to human life.