'Smart Dust' Spacecraft Swarm Saves Earth?
Smart dust spacecraft have been designed at Cornell University to save us all. The intent of engineers Mason Peck and Justin Atchison is to deploy a swarm of their tiny craft between the Earth and the sun. If a solar flare strikes, the additional warning will give us time to duck and cover.
The tiny "smart dust" craft are little more than solar panels with radio antennas, but what sort of amenities did you expect on a spacecraft just one centimeter square, 25 micrometers thick and weighing just 7.5 milligrams?
By letting a swarm of these tiny chips go along for the ride on the next ship heading toward one of the Lagrange points, they could deploy and serve as an early warning system. Lagrange points, also called libration points, are the five positions in an orbital system with two objects where the gravitational pull of the two objects cancels each other out.
Men in Black fans of course remember the tiny spaceship belonging to Serleena, the serpentine Kylothian queen. Readers may recall other tales of tiny craft?
(MIB 2 alien spacecraft)
Update: Thanks to reader VuDuDaDi for reminding me. Don't forget the combined Vl'hurg and G'Gugvuntt invasion fleet swallowed by a dog in The Hitchhikers Guide:
"For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across — which happened to be the Earth — where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog."
From New Scientist.
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