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Can Bill Nye Raise $1.2 Million to Crowdfund Solar-Powered LightSail?

posted: 05/13/15
by: Danny Clemens
LightSail in Earth orbit
Josh Spradling/The Planetary Society

One of television's favorite scientists is mobilizing the troops to get a futuristic spacecraft off the ground - literally.

Television personality and The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye is calling on his fans to crowdfund the launch of LightSail, a 300-square-foot reflective sail powered by the Sun's rays. Photons emitted from the Sun carry just enough momentum to provide the spacecraft with minor, yet continuous, momentum.

While the full product is not set to launch until fall 2016, The Planetary Society plans to launch a prototype later this month. The proptype LightSail will hitch a ride on an Atlas 5 military rocket into low-Earth orbit, where it will then undergo 30 days of testing.

Apart from its launching on a military rocket, LightSail was conceived, designed and built completely privately. The New York Times reports that NASA briefly dabbled with solar sail technology in the 1970's, but ultimately abandoned the project.

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