Sailing on Sunlight: Planetary Society’s LightSail
We are only a few hours away from a monumental experiment in space craft propulsion. Ever tried sailing on sunlight?
The Planetary Society is going to be launching their solar sail space craft LightSail in a matter of hours. LightSail is designed to deploy 32 square meters of 4.2 micron thick sails once in space. The sails literally catch solar “wind”; charged particles emanating from the Sun that will push LightSail through space. (It’s kinda like the “Explorers” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Anyway, talk about green energy! (Or Yellow) What are the implications? Well according to the Planetary Society says
LightSail represents a major leap forward in the concept and technology of solar sailing. Through this program, we’re making it possible for other groups, including NASA, to utilize this innovative propulsion technique on CubeSats and other small spacecraft—opening the door to a huge variety of low-cost missions throughout the solar system.
As you might know, Bill Nye currently heads up the Planetary Society as CEO. We had the incredible opportunity to interview Bill during the production of Chasing Atlantis. You’ll get to see Bill talk more about space exploration once Chasing hits a film festival near you.
LightSail is currently running a Kickstarter Campaign that you can support for a chance at some amazing incentives ranging from LighSail merch, to cool gear like a Raspberry Pi rigged up to tell you when LightSail is travelling overhead, to lunch with Bill himself!
The main LightSail website can be found here where you can also watch the launch live at 10:45am EST today (May 20th). This launch will be a shakedown cruise to ensure LightSail survives orbital insertion and to test the sail deployment system. The test of the solar sails themselves will occur on the next launch scheduled for 2016.