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Public: JPL aims at the outer planets and the stars


>From Rocketeers to Solar Sailors 

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Scientists Are Building Robots to 
Explore the Solar System -- and Even Making Plans to Sail to the Stars

To quote in part:

"On a sweltering summer day this year, a small team of scientists attempts 
the unimaginable: Working among the 150 structures on JPL's 156-acre home 
in La Canada-Flintridge, they are dreaming of a voyage to the nearest star,
Alpha Centauri, a journey that would take the most advanced existing
tens of thousands of years. The JPL team hopes to design a vehicle to fly at 
one-tenth the speed of light, cutting travel time to less than 40 years. If
such a journey seems unfathomable, consider this: These scientists and
are devoting their careers to a mission that won't fly until long after they 
are dead. 

It's like the 15th century explorers who set out for the Americas, for
says Dr. Charles Elachi, the ebullient but low-key Lebanese-born scientist
heads JPL's Space and Earth Science Programs. They didn't know, step by step, 
how they would explore new continents, he says, but they had the confidence 
that they would figure out ways to overcome the hurdles.