light sail n.

= solar sail n.


  • [1960 K. Jones Outward Bound (8) in New Worlds Science Fiction July 86 page image

    A satellite equipped with a large and light sail probably constructed from tissue-fine plastic or aluminium extended on fine ribs, could be controlled so that one face was permanently turned away from the Sun. Later on. larger sails will very likely propel space ships.]

  • 1963 ‘C. Smith’ Think Blue, Count Two in Galaxy Feb. 48/2 Cordwainer Smith bibliography

    She went by light-sail ship. And she had to cross space—space, where the danger always waits.

  • 1971 L. Niven in Quark 4 Aug. 208 Larry Niven

    That’s the solar wind. You get the same problem around any yellow sun. With a light-sail you can get push from the solar wind as well as from light pressure. The trouble is, the solar wind is just stripped hydrogen atoms. Light bounces from a light-sail, but the solar wind just hits the sail and sticks.

  • 1971 L. Niven Fourth Profession in Quark Aug. 209 Larry Niven

    ‘Jerome Finney…showed that the spectrum was the light of our own sun, drastically blue-shifted. Some kind of mirror was coming at us, moving at a hell of a clip, but slowing as it came.’ ‘That would mean a light-sail! ’ ‘Why the big deal, Frazer? I thought you already knew. ’ ‘No. This is the first I've heard of it. I don’t read the Sunday supplements. ’ Morris was exasperated. ‘But you knew enough to call a laser cannon a launching laser! ’

  • 1971 L. Niven Fourth Profession in Hole in Space (1974) 169 Larry Niven

    ‘The spectrum was the light of our own sun, drastically blue-shifted. Some kind of mirror was coming at us, moving at a hell of a clip, but slowing as it came.’ ‘Oh,’ I got it then. ‘That would mean a light sail.’

  • 1974 L. Niven & J. Pournelle Mote in God’s Eye (1976) 48 Larry Niven Jerry Pournelle bibliography

    ‘You knew we were dealing with a light-sail propulsion system, sir?… Sunlight per square centimeter falling on a light sail decreases as the square of the distance from the star. Acceleration varies directly as the sunlight reflected from the sail.’… Renner made another parabola, very like the first, but in blue. ‘The stellar wind can also propel a light sail. Thrust varies about the same way. The important difference is that the stellar wind is atomic nuclei. They stick where they hit the sail. The momentum is transferred directly—and it’s all radial to the sun.’

  • 1982 R. L. Forward in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Dec. 19/1 Robert L. Forward

    With the laser power off, Prometheus had to make do with the weak red photons from Barnard. Although not powerful enough to have slowed the lightsail in its headlong relativistic flight, the light pressure was enough to swing the sail into a looping orbit that took Prometheus on a journey past the major planets in the system.

  • 1982 W. Gibson Hinterlands in W. Gibson Burning Chrome (1986) 78 William Gibson

    Tsiolkovsky 1 is fixed at the libration point between Earth’s gravity and the moon’s, but we need a lightsail to hold us here, twenty tons of aluminum spun into a hexagon, ten kilometres from side to side. That sail towed us out from Earth orbit, and now it’s our anchor.

  • 1988 R. Silverberg We are for Dark in Coll. Stories (1993)II. 342 Robert Silverberg

    Small unmanned starships, laser-powered robot drones, unfurling great lightsails and gliding starwards on the urgent breath of photonic winds that we ourselves stirred up.

  • 1990 L. Niven Madness Has Its Place in L. Niven et al. Man-Kzin Wars III (1992) iii. 29 Larry Niven

    Light-sails are rare in the inner solar system. Between Venus and Mercury there are still light-sail races, an expensive, uncomfortable and dangerous sport… The last refuge of the light-sail is a huge, empty region: the cometary halo, Pluto and beyond. The light-sails are all cargo craft.

  • 1990 R. L. Forward Rocheworld 1 Robert L. Forward

    The torn shred of aluminum lightsail rippled lightly down through the thin atmosphere.

  • 1990 F. Pohl World at End of Time (1993) 11 Frederik Pohl

    The unanticipated flare would be pouring our wholly unexpected floods of photons, and, as the light sail had already been deployed to help in Mayflower’s long, slow deceleration, the fare would be shoving them off course and their speed would be decreasing too rapidly.

  • 1994 I. McDonald Necroville (1995) 110 Ian McDonald

    They have a policy of buying up your contract while you’re still swimming in your Jesus tanks. ‘Nightfreighting’: shipping mining plants and crew out to the asteroids in the form of cheap light-sail drivers with slap-on tector packages.

  • 1996 B. Aldrin & J. Barnes Encounter with Tiber 97

    The rest of the first forty seconds or so showed them deploying a light sail, sailing away from Alpha Centauri with a couple of gravity assists, making their way to the solar system, and descending to Earth.

  • 1998 I. McDonald Days of Solomon Gursky in G. Dozois Mammoth Bk. Best New Science Fiction, 12th Coll. (1999) 245 Ian McDonald

    The breaking wave of particles, with multiple gravity assists from Luvah and Enitharmon, would surf the bright flotilla up to interstellar velocities, as, at the end of the centuries—millennia—long flights, the light-sails would brake the packages at their destinations.

  • 2002 A. Reynolds Redemption Ark 391 Alastair Reynolds bibliography

    He had started turning Skade’s light-sails to his own side, training his own optical lasers on them as they passed in the night and steering them into the paths of the chasing ships.

  • 2005 C. Stross Accelerando v. 172 Charles Stross bibliography

    Many of those are now passengers or spectators of the Field Circus: a light-sail craft that is speeding out of Sol system on a laser beam generated by Amber’s installations in low-Jupiter orbit.

Research requirements

antedating 1963

Earliest cite

Cordwainer Smith: Think Blue, Count Two

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a cite from a 1976 reprint of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's "The Mote in God's Eye", which was verified in the 1974 first edition by Edward Bornstein.
Dan Tilque submitted a cite from a 1974 reprint of Larry Niven's "The Fourth Profession"; Carol Phillips verified the cite in the 1971 first appearance in Quark 4.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1999 reprint of Ian McDonald's 1998 "The Days of Solomon Gursky".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from Robert Forward's "Rocheworld", Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1982 first magazine appearance.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1990 cite from Eric Drexler's "The Canvas of Night".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1990 cite from Scott Green's "Lightsail".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1990 cite from Robert Staehle and Louis Friedman's "Solar Sails in an Interplanetary Economy".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 2002 cite from Alastair Reynolds' "Redemption Ark".
Tom Becker submitted a cite from a reprint of Cordwainer Smith's (Paul R. Linebarger) "Think Blue, Count Two", which Mike Christie verified in the original publication in Galaxy, February 1963.

Last modified 2021-04-01 13:45:46
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.