Planetary Society Says LightSail 2 Demonstrated Flight by Light

LightSail with its solar sail deployed. (Credit: The Planetary Society)

The Planetary Society says that its LightSail 2 satellite has demonstrated the ability to change its orbit by the power of light.

Since unfurling the spacecraft’s silver solar sail last week, mission managers have been optimizing the way the spacecraft orients itself during solar sailing. After a few tweaks, LightSail 2 began raising its orbit around the Earth. In the past 4 days, the spacecraft has raised its orbital high point, or apogee, by about 2 kilometers. The mission team has confirmed the apogee increase can only be attributed to solar sailing, meaning LightSail 2 has successfully completed its primary goal of demonstrating flight by light for CubeSats.

“We’re thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2,” said LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts. “Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the Sun, something that’s never been done before. I’m enormously proud of this team. It’s been a long road and we did it.”

The milestone makes LightSail 2 the first spacecraft to use solar sailing for propulsion in Earth orbit, the first small spacecraft to demonstrate solar sailing, and just the second-ever solar sail spacecraft to successfully fly, following Japan’s IKAROS, which launched in 2010. LightSail 2 is also the first crowdfunded spacecraft to successfully demonstrate a new form of propulsion.

“For The Planetary Society, this moment has been decades in the making,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye. “Carl Sagan talked about solar sailing when I was in his class in 1977. But the idea goes back at least to 1607, when Johannes Kepler noticed that comet tails must be created by energy from the Sun. The LightSail 2 mission is a game-changer for spaceflight and advancing space exploration.”

Opposition to Nye’s State of the Union Attendance Grows

Bill Nye (Credit: Montclair Film Festival)

The criticism of the decision by The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address tonight at the invitation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has grown to include a petition and an opinion piece in a prominent scientific publication.

An online petition urging Nye to cancel his plans started by ClimateHawkVote had garnered 35,790 signatures, more the 35,000 it was seeking. The petition reads:

President Donald Trump is a bigoted climate denier. So is Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s embattled nominee for NASA Administrator. So why is Bill Nye “very pleased” to be Bridenstine’s guest at Trump’s first State of the Union address?

Bill, please be the Science Guy, not the Bigoted Climate Denial Guy. Cancel your plans to attend Trump’s State of the Union as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest.

An opinion piece in Scientific American by the organization 500 Women Scientists disagrees with Nye’s claim that he is not endorsing Bridenstine, the Trump Administration or their science policies by attending the annual address.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education….

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.











Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

(more…)











Bridenstine Invites Bill Nye to State of the Union Address

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

WASHINGTON (Jim Bridenstine PR) — Congressman Jim Bridenstine announced today that Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and CEO of the Planetary Society will be his guest at President Trump’s State of the Union Address on January 30th.

(more…)











LightSail-A Named Smallsat Mission of the Year

LightSail spacecraft with solar sail deployed. (Credit: The Planetary Society)
LightSail spacecraft with solar sail deployed. (Credit: The Planetary Society)

LOGAN, UT (Planetary Society PR) — At the 29th annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)/Utah State University (USU) Conference on Small Satellites, The Planetary Society’s citizen-funded LightSail spacecraft test mission (LightSail-A) was named Mission of the Year by the AIAA Small Satellite Technical Committee. Eleven standout small satellite projects from around the world were nominated by a committee of experts. A voting period during the conference engaged the engineering and scientific community and the public.

(more…)











Planetary Society Regains Contact With LightSail

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Ca., May 30, 2015 (Planetary Society PR) — After a successful launch into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral, The Planetary Society’s LightSail™ spacecraft went silent after two days of communications. The solar sailing spacecraft test mission, a precursor to a 2016 mission, has now resumed contact after a suspected software glitch affected communications. The LightSail team will soon determine when to attempt deployment of the spacecraft’s Mylar® solar sails.

Bill Nye (The Science Guy), CEO at The Planetary Society, issued the following statement:

“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. After we are confident in the data packets regarding our orbit, we will make decisions about uploading the patch and deploying our sails— and we’ll make those decisions very soon. This has been a rollercoaster for us down here on Earth, all the while our capable little spacecraft has been on orbit going about its business. In the coming two days, we will have more news, and I am hopeful now that it will be very good.”

For in-depth coverage of LightSail’s test and 2016 missions, follow embedded reporter, Jason Davis at planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis.











Secret Workshop Reaches Consensus on Human Mars Mission; Details to Follow

Mars_Soil
Washington, D.C., April 2, 2015 (Planetary Society PR)
– The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) and members of the Society’s Board of Directors today announced results of the ”Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop. The goal of the workshop was to gather expert science, engineering, and policy professionals to build consensus on the key elements of a long-term, cost constrained, executable program to send humans to Mars.

(more…)











Planetary Society’s LightSail Spacecraft to Launch Aboard Falcon Heavy in 2016

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Calif. (Planetary Society PR) — The Planetary Society, the world’s largest and most influential space interest group, announces that its LightSail solar sail spacecraft will reach space on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2016. The announcement was made during a live webcast on July 9th.

“It’s fantastic that at last we have a launch date for this pioneering mission,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye The Science Guy. “When I was in engineering school, I read the book about solar sailing by my predecessor, Society co-founder Louis Friedman. But the dream of sailing on light alone goes back much further.”

(more…)











Planetfest 2012 to Celebrate Curiosity Landing

The Planetary Society is holding its Planetfest Event this Saturday and Sunday in Pasadena to celebrate the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover. The details:

August 4, 2012, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
August 5, 2012, 2:00 pm – 11:30 pm or later

Pasadena Convention Center
300 E. Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

Tickets

The program will feature leaders in space exploration, including:  Charles Elachi, Director of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Bill Nye (the Science Guy®); planetary vulcanologist Rosaly Lopes; Jim Bell, PanCam lead on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and member of the Curiosity team; Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla; Mars rover driver Scott Maxwell; NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green; former “Mars Czar” Scott Hubbard; Star Trek™ actor Robert Picardo; historian Shelley Bonus; author and space historian Andrew Chaikin; space artists; and private space entrepreneurs.

In addition to this full schedule, both days will have the following ongoing events and displays:

  • Touch a piece of Mars: A fragment of a real martian meteorite discovered in Sultanate of Oman.
  • See a full-size mockup of the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital vehicle
  • A space-themed art show with over 50 works of art including 4 original pieces just for Planetfest.
  • Hands-on science activities for kids of all ages (build your own Martian sundial, dirty comets workstation, First Robotics demonstrations)
  • A full-size model of the Curiosity rover that will land on Mars
  • Demonstrations and hands-on workstations for NASA Eyes on the Solar System and Google Mars
  • XBoxes with the Mars Rover Landing Game
  • The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) used in the current Mars rover mission and other future tech from Honeybee Robotics
  • A room full of presentations and displays about the future of space from our sponsors.

Get more information.











B-612 Plans Infrared Asteroid Seeking Telescope

The B-612 Foundation is set to unveil plans for its privately-funded asteroid hunting orbital telescope on Thursday at noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT; 1600 GMT) during a press conference in San Francisco.

Bill Nye the Science Guy provided some early intel on the project for about 40 attendees at the monthly LA Space Salon on Wednesday. Nye, who is scheduled to fly up to San Francisco for the press conference on Thursday morning, described the plan as follows:

The foundation will place an infrared telescope (originally called Sentinel but since renamed) into space at approximately the orbit of Venus (.7 AU). It will look out at the solar system with the sun at its back. An infrared instrument is being used because asteroids reflect well in this spectrum. It is believed that there are as many as 100,000 Earth-crossing asteroids.

Funding for the telescope is coming from investors in Silicon Valley. Nye mentioned that officials had met with Elon Musk of SpaceX, although he wasn’t clear on whether the company had agreed to launch the telescope.

UPDATE:  The telescope is indeed called SENTINEL and plans call for launching it on a SpaceX Falcon 9.











Bill Nye, Lou Friedman to Discuss New Space Plan on Webchat

Where Should We Go in Space?
Tell Bill Nye During a Live Ustream Chat

“Tell us where you want to go in space!” said Bill Nye, slated to take the reins as the Planetary Society’s new executive director.

Nye will join Louis Friedman, the Society’s current executive director, on July 14, 2010 to talk with the public about The New NASA Plan — Destinations, during a live interactive video event on Ustream.

(more…)