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"To get anywhere, or even live a long time, a man has to guess, and guess right, over and over again, without enough data for a logical answer."
- Robert Heinlein

Soletta  
  An array of solar sail mirrors that focus light onto a planetary surface for power.  

“Well, and now with this soletta pouring sunlight onto the surface!” Jessica exclaimed. She shook her head, as if disapproving. “Natural insolation averaged forty-five percent of Earth’s, and with the soletta it’s supposed to be up to fifty-four.”

“Tell me more about this soletta,” Sax said carefully. They told him in a kind of round. A group of transnationals, led by Subarashii, had built a circular slatted array of solar sail mirrors, placed between the sun and Mars and aligned to focus inward sunlight that would have just missed the planet. An annular support mirror, rotating in a polar orbit, reflected light back to the soletta to counterbalance the pressure of the sunlight, and that light was bounced back onto Mars as well. Both these mirror systems were truly huge compared to the early freighter sails Sax had enlisted to reflect light onto the surface, and the reflected light they were adding to the system was really significant.

“It must have cost a fortune to build them,” Sax murmured.

“Oh, it did. The big transnats are investing like you can’t believe.”

“And they’re not done yet,” Berkina said. “They’re planning to fly an aerial lens just a few hundred kilometers above the surface, and this lens will focus some of the incoming light from the soletta, until it heats the surface up to fantastic temperatures, like five thousand degrees—”

“Five thousand!”

“Yes, I think that’s what I heard. They plan to melt the sand and the regolith underneath, which will release all the volatiles into the atmosphere.”

“But what about the surface?”

“They plan to do it in remote areas.”

“In lines,” Claire said. “So that they end up with ditches?”

“Canals,” Sax said. “Yes, that’s right.” They laughed. “Glass-sided canals,” Sax said, troubled by the thought of all those volatiles. Carbon dioxide would be prominent among them, perhaps chief among them.

From Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Published by Bantam in 1995
Additional resources -

The term derives from work by Dr. Krafft A. Ehricke in 1978, if not earlier; see The Extraterrestrial Imperative for more details.

Compare to the spot light of heat from Niven/Pournelle/Flynn's Fallen Angels (1991) and Clifford Simak's solar energy beam from Masquerade (1941).

Thanks to Maksim-Smelchak for submitting this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Green Mars
  More Ideas and Technology by Kim Stanley Robinson
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