LightSail mission controllers at The Planetary Society, of which Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is the CEO, downloaded a partial image of the spacecraft’s solar sails deployed in space, the nonprofit organization reported on its website in a blog post authored by Jason Davis.
The image itself is scrambled and partially blank because the complete mission control had yet to download the complete image in its entirety. The image which was downloaded, the partial, was received at roughly 1:50 p.m. EDT as the CubeSat passed over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO).
In the aforementioned update on the Planetary website, Mr. Davis noted that the complete image “should finish downloading early tomorrow morning.” The entry was published on June 9, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
Bill Nye tweeted the partial image of the unfurled sails along with a message which indicated that the “sail has unfurled.”
Keep an on the sky. The engineers will fill this image in soon. Our sail has unfurled. http://t.co/daEQEuaAsz
— Bill Nye (@BillNye) June 8, 2015
An earlier update from the organization indicated that the tiny deployment motor for the solar sails suddenly came to life on Sunday afternoon.
Two pictures captured by LightSail’s cameras during the sail deployment sequence on Sunday were found to contain no usable image data once flight controllers managed to download them. Subsequently, a meeting was convened between the nonprofit and the original camera manufacturer, The Aerospace Corporation. The meeting accounted for, mission managers decided to send commands to the cameras, instructing them to capture a fresh set of pictures.
This fresh set is what the latest partial image is apart of. All the same, the partial image confirms that the spacecraft, which runs on solar propulsion, has deployed its solar sails.
The idea of sailing through space propelled by solar energy originates with none other than astrophysicist Carl Sagan, however, it’s Bill Nye — a modern Carl Sagan, if you will — who has helped take the late Sagan’s dream of sailing through space and turn it into a reality.