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Project Lightsail: Bill Nye The Science Guy To Manifest Carl Sagan’s Space Sailing Concept Into Reality

Carl Sagan Viking

In 1976, legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan presented his famous idea of traveling through space via solar propulsion and now nearly four decades later, a team led by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is going to make his dream a reality with a new project known as Lightsail— which intends to sail through space.

The LightSail project is a futuristic space sailing concept which is, as mentioned, the brainchild of the late Sagan who first discussed it on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. During the interview, the late Sagan said:

There’s a tremendously exciting prospect called solar sailing, which travels on the radiation and particles that come out of the sun – the wind from the sun. It works exactly as an ordinary sail boat does, so it can go out from the sun, it can tack inwards to the sun, and because it has a constant acceleration it can get you around the inner part of the solar system a lot faster and a lot more conveniently than the usual sorts of rocket propulsion.

While it may have been an extremely ambitious proposition at the time, technological and scientific advancements since then have made the concept a significantly more realistic proposition. This is why as wild as it sounds, the Planetary Society in the United States decided to fund it.

The International Business Times indicated in a report that it isn’t an entirely new project by any means as both NASA as well as Japan’s IKAROS have similar operations going, but this one is the first to be backed by private funding.

A prototype has already been developed and its primary components are two sets of Mylar sails, which will be used to maneuver in space. Meanwhile, the sails will be deployed by the arms of a “CubeSat” satellite. The device’s functions have been coded in the C programming language and it can also be executed on the Linux operating system.

LightSail’s makers plan to test the prototype in Earth’s orbit on May 20, and if all goes according to plan, it could embark on its first-ever voyage into space next April.

The Planetary Society backing of Sagan’s idea makes sense as he was the one who co-founded the NGO. In regards to Sagan’s vision and his team’s work, Nye said:

I’m proud to say we’re about to realise Professor Sagan’s vision. We have built our own light sail spacecraft – it’s our own solar sail. It’s remarkable. We’re advancing space science and exploration so the citizens of the world will be enabled to know the cosmos and our place within it.

What do you think, will Bill Nye and his team pull it off?

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