spaceSpace and Physics

Contact Re-Established With Bill Nye's LightSail

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Justine Alford

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271 Contact Re-Established With Bill Nye's LightSail
Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

It has been a bit of a nail-biting week for Bill Nye and chums at The Planetary Society—just days after being their innovative solar-powered spacecraft LightSail was successfully launched into orbit, communication was lost due to a software glitch. While manufacturers managed to sort the problem out, the tiny craft, a citizen-funded prototype launched to test out the sail deployment sequence ahead of next year’s mission, failed to respond to reboot attempts.

Thankfully, contact was re-established over the weekend following eight days of silence. Although the CubeSat has been merrily sending data back to Earth and taking test images since waking up, Washington Post reports that its computer is still having issues, but a reboot at least once a day should sort that out. If the craft continues to operate as planned, deployment of its sails could be scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, June 2.


Understandably, Nye could hardly contain his excitement over the news. “Our LightSail called home! It’s alive! Our LightSail spacecraft rebooted itself, just as our engineers predicted,” he said in a statement. “Everyone is delighted. We were ready for three more weeks of anxiety.”

But his enthusiasm didn’t end there, here’s a video released by The Planetary Society of Nye surfing for joy.

The idea behind this project is to develop a spacecraft capable of using the sun’s energy to propel itself, harnessing the momentum of light particles to accelerate. Ultimately, it is hoped that this cheap and inexhaustible propulsion method could help us explore planets, but at the moment it is very much at the proof-of-concept phase.

[Via The Planetary Society and Washington Post]


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