Air & SpaceScience

Planetary Society Rejoices as Communications With LightSail Spacecraft Established

The Planetary Society breathes a sigh of relief as communications are made with silent LightSail Spacecraft

Good news for Bill Nye and the Planetary Society as their LightSail project finally came back online Saturday after what could have been a disastrous launch of their tiny spacecraft back on May 20th.

LightSail blasted off into space aboard an Atlas V rocket. Several days later, once the rocket was in orbit, the small “cube sat” was silent from what was described as a software glitch.

After several stressful days of trying to regain contact with LightSail, the Planetary Society was able to confirm that they had regained communications and the project was back on track. Predictions were made the the spacecraft would reboot itself, fixing the problem. There was no guarantee that this would happen, but eventually it did, fixing the communication error.

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was quoted as saying:

“Our LightSail called home! It’s alive! Our LightSail spacecraft has rebooted itself, just as our engineers predicted. Everyone is delighted. We were ready for three more weeks of anxiety. In this meantime, the team has coded a software patch ready to upload.”

There was a little more riding on this mission, other than the fear of loss of large amount of money already spent on the project and the black mark of a failed project. The LightSail project was inspired by the late Carl Sagan who also founded the Planetary Society.

The LightSail uses an experimental new technology where instead of utilizing a rocket to propel itself through space, it uses the pushing of trillions of massless photons to push it along. Essentially giving the sail a limitless supply of fuel. If this mission succeeds, it could lead to a whole new way of thinking about how future space missions could take place to visit far-off locations that would have previously been impossible due to fuel restrictions. Added to that the fact that any type of fuel is both expensive and heavy. The more weight, the more fuel needed, which becomes somewhat of a catch-22 when calculating what it will take to get cargo of any kind from Earth to “Point B” in mans journey in space exploration.
This is the first test of the LightSail and a 2016 mission is already planned to continue testing it for future applications.

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