Re: Some science fiction "firsts"
The fact that electromagnetic radiation produces pressure was discovered in 1871. In 1924, Friedrich Zander proposed solar sails as a means of propelling a spacecraft.
Likely the earliest story in sci-fi involving this method of propulsion was in 1960's: "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul", by Cordwainer Smith. In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke speculated about a "solar yacht race" in "Sunjammer".
In visual fiction, Tron(1982) used a "solar sailing simulation"
, though it was not actually a physical spacecraft. The first appearance of a physical solar sailer was in May of 1995 on STDS9's "Explorers", followed closely by Outer Limits in July, 1995 with "The Message".
Ikaros, the first actual non-experimental solar sail mission ever was launched in 2010 by the Japanese space agency, followed by the Nanosail-D2 by NASA in Nov, 2010.
Addendum: Severely missed the visual fiction appearance, Doctor Who had a solar sailing race in 1983!!!! Then again in 1994, in the fan made "Shakedown"!! Tiger Moth was captured by Sontarrans: http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Tiger_Moth
Odin Photon Space Sailer Starlight appeared in 1986 as well:
It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan