Cosmic Queries: LightSail with Bill Nye

Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society, via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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About This Episode

In May 2015, the non-profit Planetary Society will launch its first LightSail spacecraft for a “shakedown cruise” in Earth orbit. So who better to answer fan questions about the program than their CEO, Bill Nye, and his co-host Chuck Nice? You’ll find out how this tiny spacecraft (30 cm on a side) with a big solar sail (32 square meters of aluminized mylar) will get into space as the secondary payload on an Atlas 5, and what it will do once it gets there. Bill explains how LightSail will be pushed through space by sunlight, because even though photons may not have mass, they do have momentum. Learn about cubesats, and why the US Air Force is so interested in them. Explore practical applications for solar sail technology both here on Earth and out in space, from deflecting asteroids to traveling to Proxima Centauri. Plus, discover why the Society’s first attempt at a solar sail in 2005 ended in failure – and why this time things will be different.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Cosmic Queries: LightSail with Bill Nye.

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