USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

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Bill Nye the Science Guy

“We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” –Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan’s dream that one day spacecraft would “sail” in space, powered only by light from the sun, is reaching fruition at The Planetary Society, the world-renowned organization he co-founded.

No longer the stuff of science fiction, solar-sailing and the technology to make it happen in the U.S. is being developed by The Planetary Society, a major Festival Partner.

The Society hopes to launch its first solar sail craft, dubbed LightSail-1, next
year – a key test flight to evaluate solar-sail technology. Visitors to the Festival’s Expo can view a replica of LightSail-1 and other elements of the craft in an intriguing Planetary Society exhibit demonstrating how a steady stream of reflecting photons from the sun alone can actually propel a spacecraft in Earth’s orbit.

Expo goers will also want to stop by the Society’s exhibition area to see
well-known media personality Bill Nye The Science Guy® who will be on hand to meet and greet visitors.

Nye has a long and close relationship with The Planetary Society. A former astronomy student of Carl Sagan, Nye has been a member of the Planetary Society’s Board of Directors for more than a decade.

And in September, Nye will take the helm as the new Executive Director of the Society, replacing Louis Friedman, who has served as co-founder and Executive Director since the organization began 30 years ago. After leaving his position, Friedman will remain closely involved with the Society, continuing to direct its solar sail project Lightsail-1 (a project funded solely by private funds) and other Planetary Society initiatives.

The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space-interest group, is dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration. The Society is non-governmental and nonprofit and funded by the support of its members. http://planetary.org

Says Nye: “The inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival is an important event. It’s an opportunity for us at the Planetary Society. I look forward to sharing the passion, beauty, and joy of space exploration with the entire nation, especially with the young innovators of tomorrow.”

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LightSail-1 rendering

Inn addition to a solar sail, the Society’s exhibit will also feature young working engineers from Stellar Explorations, a small company that is working closely with California Polytechnic State University = in designing and building the diminuative LightSail-1 craft. (LightSail-1 is constructed of 32 square meters of aluminized, reinforced Mylar and includes four triangular sails arranged in a diamond shape resembling a giant kite. The inner workings of the craft are housed in three tiny Cubesats –miniature cube-shaped satellites, made tiny thanks to micro- and nanotechnology –which house central electronics, the control module, and other capabilities.)

The young engineers will be on hand to give visitors an up-close look and demonstration of such technology and provide youngsters and the public the chance to have photo images of themselves sent up with LightSail-1 on its maiden voyage.

LightSail-1 — the first in a series of spacecraft in The Planetary Society’s effort to develop solar sailing capability – is slated to be placed in orbit about 497 miles above the Earth next year, giving scientists further insight into using sunlight as a means of propulsion.

So, visit The Planetary Society exhibit and be a part of space history!

Comments

  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    July 12, 2010

    Yes! I have been waiting for a solar sail since the late seventies!
    BTW, is there any news about the one launched alongside the Japanese probe?