Bill Nye’s Tiny LightSail Spacecraft Fully Recovers and Succesfully Launches Its Solar Sail
Sailing the solar system on beams of light. And not in some feel-good metaphor way.
The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft was in trouble recently when it encountered a software glitch, lost contact with the ground, and had to wait for an automatic reboot. After it reestablished tentative contact last week, it’s finally come fully back under control and successfully deployed the sail that will allow its descendants to ride on beams of light.
The current version of LightSail in low Earth orbit is just a test unit for later tiny, efficient, photon-powered spacecraft and won’t actually use its giant solar sail for propulsion, but the successful test puts that eventual reality one step closer to coming true. Mission manager David Spencer of The Planetary Society—the civilian-funded organization behind the LightSail cubesats with none other than Bill Nye as its CEO—wrote in an email update, “All indications are that the solar sail deployment was proceeding nominally,” according to a blog post by The Planetary Society.
Currently, the team is attempting to download images from the little test spacecraft’s onboard cameras, but they’ve run into some issues there, too, that are still being sorted out:
Good morning from PDT. The LightSail team downloaded a couple images, but the file structure is a bit off and image doesn’t show anything.
— Jason Davis (@jasonrdavis) June 8, 2015
To find out where LightSail is for yourself and try to catch a glimpse of it in the night sky, you can head to The Planetary Society’s Mission Control page for detailed tracking based on your location. And if any of these successful tests have gotten you personally into the dream of making space travel easier to get involved with through low-cost technologies, you can donate to LightSail’s well-more-than-funded Kickstarter to assist with furthering the project.
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