Speed Reads

space

Bill Nye's solar sail spacecraft is set to launch tomorrow

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