Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
This image was taken during the LightSail 2 sail deployment sequence, July 23, 2019. Baja California and Mexico are visible in the background. LightSail 2's dual 185-degree fisheye lenses can each capture more than half of the sail. VOA

Members of the LightSail 2 team declared their mission a success in a teleconference Wednesday. The citizen-funded spacecraft is the highest-performing solar sail to date and the first to demonstrate the ability to orbit Earth in a controlled way.

“This is a very exciting day for us, and for me personally,” said Bill Nye, chief executive officer of the Planetary Society, the organization behind the mission. “This idea that you could fly a spacecraft with nothing but photons is surprising, and for me, it’s very romantic that you could be sailing on sunbeams.”


LightSail 2 is the latest demonstration of solar sail technology, which uses the gentle pressure of photons — the particles of light — on a lightweight, reflective surface to propel a craft through space, similar to the way the wind pushes a sailing ship across the ocean. However, instead of canvas, solar sails are made of thin sheets of Mylar, the same crinkly silver material often used for helium-filled balloons.

Faster speeds


Members of the LightSail 2 team declared their mission a success in a teleconference Wednesday. Pixabay

Although the pressure of the sun’s rays is no greater than the weight of a paperclip dropping on the sail, sunlight is a constant source of energy. Scientists expect that as long as sunlight reaches them, solar sails will keep accelerating to much higher speeds than what is provided by traditional propulsion methods using chemical or nuclear fuel.

By tracking the location of the spacecraft, the team found that it had traveled 1.7 kilometers (1.1 miles) farther from Earth in just four days thanks to the gentle influence of sunlight. This is the first time solar propulsion has been successfully demonstrated in Earth’s orbit.

The technology has been tested before. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a spacecraft called IKAROS, which used a solar sail to propel it past Venus and into orbit around the Sun.

The Planetary Society, which aims to advance space exploration, deployed its first solar sail in 2015. The LightSail 1 mission successfully unfurled a solar sail before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere a week later.

Also Read- Scientists Use Soft, Living Materials to Create 3D Print Heart Scaffold

LightSail 2 follows the same trajectory. The $7 million project was funded by Planetary Society members as well as individuals who contributed to a Kickstarter campaign in 2015.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate that solar sails can be used to propel small satellites called CubeSats. These tiny satellites weigh as little as 1 kilogram and can carry scientific instruments like cameras. Specifically, LightSail 2 is carrying a 5-kilogram (11-pound) CubeSat into a controlled orbit around Earth.

Small package

LightSail 2 was launched on June 25, 2019, carefully folded into a spacecraft the size of a loaf of bread. Last week, it successfully unfolded to its full 32-square-meter (344-square-foot) extent — about the size of a boxing ring.


The citizen-funded spacecraft is the highest-performing solar sail to date and the first to demonstrate the ability to orbit Earth in a controlled way. Pixabay

The spacecraft orbits Earth along an elliptical path. Propelled by sunlight, the spacecraft will rise to a higher orbit through Aug. 23, 2019. As the maximum distance between Earth and LightSail 2 increases, part of its orbit will inch closer to Earth. Eventually, the spacecraft will dip low enough into the atmosphere that it will begin to slow down, re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, concluding its mission.

The team members acknowledged the mission’s 50,000 financial backers, who hail from 109 countries. Jennifer Vaughn, chief operating officer of the Planetary Society, thanked the people who “have the dream and who are willing to put down their own financial support to make it happen.”

LightSail 2’s success is encouraging for the future of solar sailing. Nye said solar sails may enable us to travel to distant destinations in the solar system, including his personal goal to “ferry cargo to Mars, look for signs of life and change the course of human history.”

Nye added that LightSail 2 is part of the bigger idea that humanity seeks to explore the universe and understand our place in it.

Also Read- Report: 68 Percent Indians Already Smitten by Digital Assistants-Enabled Devices

“Space exploration brings out the best in us,” he said. (VOA)


Popular

wikimedia commons

Children playing ringa ringa roses in an open backyard in England

Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.

Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.

Keep Reading Show less
wikimedia commons

Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.

In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.

Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Medhat Dawoud on Unsplash

It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation.

Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.

Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Keep reading... Show less