Hoping his stardom will get a new space project off the ground, television host/science educator, Bill Nye and The Planetary Society are currently seeking to raise $200,000 on Kickstarter for solar sailing spacecraft, LightSail.
LightSail is described as a citizen-funded project by The Planetary Society, which is self-dubbed as the world’s “largest non-profit space advocacy group.” The objective is to send two small spacecrafts into the Earth’s orbit. Each will carry large, reflective sails that measures 32 square meters (344 square feet). The project’s first mission is a May 2015 test flight, which is know to “pave the way for a second, full-fledged solar sailing demonstration” in 2016.
Sharing some more details about the project, Nye wrote:
“I invite you to come along on a cosmic journey with me by participating in a mission to sail a spacecraft, a tiny CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox, on beams of light. Imagine it: unlimited free energy from the Sun will provide CubeSats with propulsion and revolutionize access to space for low-cost citizen projects—projects like ours or by teams of students and faculty at universities. This means that spacecraft, especially small ones like CubeSats, won’t have to carry heavy fuels into orbit, and that the acceleration will be continuous. Even better, this is a journey that is directly funded by the world’s citizens, like you, rather than by governments. LightSail is truly ‘the people’s spacecraft.’
“Our LightSail mission will be the culmination of the hopes and dreams of our visionary founders, Louis Friedman, Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan. Some of you may remember Carl famously promoting solar sailing on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.”
Nye also added:
“Through this proof-of-concept mission, we will use CubeSats to open new paths beyond Earth and, one day, potentially to other planets with an inexpensive, inexhaustible means of propulsion: photons, solar energy in its purest form. We need backers like you to join us in getting to this epic point in space exploration history. LightSail propulsion truly holds the promise—dare I say it?—to change the world!”
It was also noted that the final bill for LightSail is projected to be at $5.45 million. Nye and the organization just need over $1.2 million to raise in order to get the project up and running. If the Kickstarter secures $1 million, the project will be able to take the team from spacecraft construction, integration and testing, through orbital operations (actual solar sailing) to data collection, analysis and publication of results.
Since its debut on Tuesday, LightSail’s Kickstarter campaign has captured nearly $160,000 from 2,700 backers. It is set to close on June 26th.
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