A panel with a solar sail will be placed in space, following the idea of Carl Sagan.
The next SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will be launched on Monday and place satellites in three different orbits. In the second stop will leave the satellite of the Planetary Society that gives by the name of LightSail 2.
The LightSail 2 project of the Planetary Society aims to realize the ideas of the founders of the organization as Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray or Lou Friedman.
Bill Nye, the acting chairman, recalls that these experts believed that launching a satellite to sail, sailing like sailing boats, to ride photon momentum would allow much cheaper explorations.
The Light Sail 2 will end up weighing about five kilos, unfurling a 4×5.6 meter sail with a thickness of 4.5 microns, or a tenth of human hair, Ars Technica reports. Sagan’s plan was to launch a device with a sail that would take advantage of the continuous acceleration of photons, and that could go further than could be achieved by chemical propulsion.
Carl Sagan went so far as to propose this approach publicly, but the focus in the 1980s was on “traditional” exploration, with combustion propulsion in the shuttles and probes. In the 1990s and early 2000s, there were at least two attempts to put a Sagan-inspired candle in space.
The failed project in 2015, LightSail 1, allowed researchers to identify various glitches and fix technical issues, giving rise to LightSail 2 that will now take off. Scientists intend to show that they can navigate to the taste of photons emanating from the Sun and that they have mechanisms to control the direction they are going.
If they can move to a higher orbit, for a month, the mission will be considered a success.