Smoother Sailing Ahead for Bill Nye's Solar Satellite

Pioneering spacecraft pulls a Jodie Foster and makes 'Contact'. 

Planetary Society

Bill Nye, the once and future Science Guy, can rest a little easier now that his prototype spacecraft is back in touch. The LightSail, a brainchild of Nye's private space organization the Planetary Society, had been incommunicado for eight days but should be able to unfurl its sails on Tuesday. 

The spacecraft solved a computer glitch with an old IT standby: the reboot. It is now snapping photos of itself and sending them back to earth, in preparation for the sail deployment. Solar sails, famously championed by Carl Sagan, have relatively recently made the shift from theory — the idea is the mirrored sails, pushed by solar radiation, cause spacecraft to accelerate — into practice. This LightSail won't actually surf in the skies, but the Planetary Society hopes to pave the way for smoother sailing in the future.  

For now, Nye seems as stoked about science as ever. "Our LightSail called home!" he said in a statement. "It’s alive!"

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