LightSail sets its Sails to Success and History


Following a series of near-death experiences, Light Sail, a small space craft deployed for space exploration purposes  and aptly named for its shiny sail that is designed to take advantage of sunlight “came back to life” on Saturday.

Light Sail is among ten payloads that took off on board a rocket that carried an unmanned United States Air Force into orbit.

William Sanford Nye, more popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy and chief executive of the Planetary Society, a nonprofit organization that finances space exploratory missions like the Light Sail project describes the Light Sail’s on and off signs of life in this manner:  “It is exciting…. It’s anxious. Its anxiety producing.”

After its deployment, Light Sail worked for two days then it was out of coverage for eight days before a high speed particle caused its computer to restart.  On Wednesday, its solar panels flipped up, signaling   pre-deployment but then fell silent again due to drained batteries.   This put the team in suspense as they could only monitor Light Sail’s activities when it passes over North America through its two ground stations:  California State Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo and at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The team’s spirits soared high again when on Saturday morning they detected Light Sail as its orbit passed over North America.  “We did get a good strong signal from LightSail,” explains David Spencer, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and mission manager. [Although the batteries seemed to still be offline] … we could read the voltages, but they didn’t appear to be charging,” he added.

Despite the series of near death situations, Jason Davis, the Planetary Society’s digital editor, finally reported positive progress on Saturday.



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