PacSci-Doku: “Sunbeam Propulsion”

By Dennis Schatz – Senior Advisor

Do you Sudoku? It’s one of the hottest number games around! Well, here’s a twist we think you’ll love. We call it PacSci-Doku. Can you guess why? Here’s how it works. Instead of filling in the blanks with numbers, we use letters. Hidden in one of the columns or rows is the answer to a science question. You’ll find information about the answer on the answer tab. The question in this edition is:

What might be the solution to interplanetary space travel?

To find the answer, complete this PacSci-Doku using the following nine letters:

I i a G L s l H T

Each row and column in the grid below has to have only one of each of these letters. Each of the 3 x 3 mini-squares in the 9 x 9 square also needs to have only one of each letter.

PacSci-Doku: Sunbeam Propulsion

Puzzle Difficulty=Hard


The question in this edition is:

What might be the solution to interplanetary space travel?

The answer: LightSail



This month, an Atlas 5 rocket will blast into space with three different payloads. One payload includes a LightSail, which starts as a 4 by 4 by 12 inch package (about the size of a 2 liter drink container) that contains four triangular sheets of Mylar, each sheet being less than 1/5000th of an inch thick. Once in space, the package will expand to a large sail that is almost 350 square feet (about the size of a large living room). Ultimately, LightSails will use the pressure from the light streaming from the Sun to fly through the solar system in the same way that a sailboat moves in the wind on water. This current mission’s main purpose is to test the deployment system. In 2016, a second LightSail is scheduled to be sent into a higher orbit, where it will hopefully demonstrate controlled solar sailing techniques. The value of solar sail propulsion is that no other fuel is required once you get into Earth orbit, which makes traveling around the solar system easier and cheaper. Learn more about LightSails and solar sailing.