On Wednesday, Bill Nye wants to make Carl Sagan's dreams come true. The Planetary Society, founded by the late Sagan and two other stargazers, now headed by Nye, is launching a prototype of its LightSail voyager, a spacecraft powered by radiation from the sun harnessed by a thin solar sail. Weather permitting, the prototype will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
This pioneering flight won't actually demonstrate the power of solar-sailing, but it's a crucial first step in testing out the mechanics: Will the 300-square-foot Mylar sail deploy properly from its bread-loaf-sized capsule? You can watch Sagan describe the concept (to Johnny Carson in 1976) here, and watch Nye and Reuters describe this week's crowdfunded effort below. —Peter Weber