The Sun Will Help Us Get to the Sun

The most powerful spinoffs contribute to the invention-discovery cycle, even while boosting the economy. A perfect example is the work contracted by NASA’s Glenn Research Center with MicroLink Devices, Inc. Future space exploration missions may depend on massive solar arrays to provide limitless energy. The problem is, while the cost of solar cells has been declining, they remain expensive. Illinois-based MicroLink has developed flexible cells that can be mass-produced at a fraction of the cost of existing technology. Besides offering promise for space missions, the military has been using the cells for power supplies and in powering drones. Could the technology exist without the space program? Yes, probably. But NASA provides an accelerant and a proven mission-driven invention machine. The Glenn contract changes the uncertainty of solar technology into a reasonable business risk for MicroLink. In return, NASA speeds up the invention of huge solar wings that can send instruments and humans to Mars and beyond.