Could we use the Sun to 'slingshot' spacecraft to the stars?

Wednesday 22nd July 2009
Submitted by Robert Matthews
Carl Redgrove, Milton Keynes

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the orbital energy to gain a big boost in speed. While the Sun has a strong gravity field, it's hopeless as a slingshot, because (as Galileo pointed out) it's the stationary heart of the Solar System. As such, it has no orbital energy to pass on to the spacecraft.

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