How LightSail 2 could change space travel

Published by Darron Toy on



imagine you're a space explorer you're on your way to a planet no one's ever been to and you realize you forgot to fill your tank at the spaceport you're out of gas but what if and stay with me here you could sail to your destination that's what makes the concept of what's known as solar sailing so fascinating solar sailing is a game changer and Bill Nye is out to prove it's a real viable solution for space exploration the light sail to past a huge milestone this week when it's successfully deployed its shiny solar sail in space about 720 kilometers above Earth and it started sending back some pretty incredible images it's equipped with dual fisheye camera lenses in this photo you can see Baja California and Mexico in the background there that sail is my lar it's 32 square meters about the size of a boxing ring now back in 2015 light sail one completed a test flight in low-earth orbit but didn't perform any controlled maneuvers with light sail two scientists want to show that the spacecraft can actually raise its orbit using only solar sailing probably by about 15 kilometers now this is a project from the Planetary Society which is headed up by Nye and also supported by Neil deGrasse Tyson back in 2015 they raised over 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to get light sail to off the ground it hits the ride to space last month on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket okay so what is solar sailing the idea is actually pretty simple now just like any form of light the light from the Sun is made up of photons which have no mass but they do carry momentum so if something is light enough like that solar sail it can be pushed by those photons in the same way wind pushes the sail on a boat this doesn't work on earth because we've got an atmosphere but in the vacuum of space there's no mass to push back on the sail the idea is solar sailing could be used as a way to propel cube SATs through space those are essentially tiny satellites they can carry science experiments they can observe earth they can even provide broadband internet solar sailing isn't a new idea legendary astronomer Carl Sagan started talking about it decades ago one mission that's being talked about is to rendezvous with Halley's Comet even the late great Stephen Hawking was a fan of solar sailing she backed a project called star chip which would use laser powered light sails to send a swarm of microbots to the nearest star Alpha Centauri and back in 2010 Japan launched Ichiro's toward Venus making that the first spacecraft to demonstrate interplanetary solar sailing now just a day after deployment the Planetary Society said the light sail was turning its broadside to the Sun about once per orbit that was giving it a little push no stronger than the weight of a paperclip okay so what's next right now we're in the orbit raising portion of the mission for the next month the spacecraft will continue swinging its sail into and away from the sun's rays which should generate enough thrust to raise its orbit after that it's going to start losing the ability to maintain a circular orbit that essentially ends the mission now light sail too will stay on orbit for about a year before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere and burning up now this technology is a long long away from propelling humans around the solar system in fact the Planetary Society is only talked about using this technology on tube sets but if this mission is a success it would at least prove that solar sailing is a viable and efficient tool for space exploration but I want to know your thoughts on solar sailing is it the future of space exploration or does this idea blow enjoy this video click here for another like it I'm Andy Altman I'll see you in the future


36 Comments

Carl Ljungquist · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

How do you get back to earth? Sailors in Columbus's time knew that winds off Africa usually blew West. They also knew that further North winds usually blew East. However, no one knew whether the same would be true after traveling West for days, weeks, or months. Turns out he was right and lucky. It doesn't really compare with LightSail but the question is the same. How do you get back home?

maydaverave · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

ugh the line "but there is no mass in space" kills me. there is mass what there isn't is air resistance thats why it wouldn't work in our atmosphere.

Jax Nean · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Let me sail, let me sail, let the solarsail flow. let me reach, let me beach on the shores of saturns moon. let me sail, let me sail, let me crash upon mars dunes. let me reach, let me beach far beyond the milky way. sail away sail away sail away !

Anthony Lopez · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

HEADLINE: "____ COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING FOREVER OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOD!!!! CLICK THE VIDEO!!!!!"
no =)

joe blow · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This could be a great leep in future advancement of both public and privet communication as well as multiple deployment from a single launch. This could help advance the 5G network and make it accessible regardless of how remote the user may be. I feel that in the near future the cost for phone and data per month will be near free or even free if certain guidelines are met with the provider and user. Such as data mining agreements, for free unlimited access and usage.

iApple OS · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This is what we raided area 51 for ?

Dan RunsWith Scissers · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I wonder if the first person to say "let's try and put up cloth and try and move the boat…" had similar discussions?

 This is a great leap forward. Even missteps lead to great things when pioneering. Really glad I get to these things. My paltry 55 years have seen some truly amazing advances. This is just one of them.

SIAN TECHNOLOGY · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

CNET I need your support for my YouTube channel.

robertpaulson31 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This will supercharge our ability to travel back and forth between 8 planets and a glorified asteroid that will almost certainly contain no life. Let's all just admit our existence is completely pointless. Ultimately, not a single soul will be remembered. Embrace our collective unimportance.

Team BLAM · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

A Clear Flat Earth Photo.

THO-BRO2000 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away Count Dooku already used it!

Charles Hocker · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Bill Nye the fake science guy.

Bobby2443 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This WTF series has been excellent

Dustin Juell · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Hello Count Dooku's sail ship used this decades ago hello……………. LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Teen Tech Talks · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I really love CNET! They inspired me to start my channel! They are my favorite channel and they are the unique of youtube! NASA is craaaazy! And confusing! lol

BobEckert56 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Sorry Andy, when there is an ad by YouTube after your video content, you can't click for a new vid because YouTube suppresses the thumbnail. Pissed? You should be.

ping oh' · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Come back to me we you’ve figured out light travel.

foxpup · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

may be too passive to be useful and could ruin the looks of the night sky since these things are HUGE reflectors. Might be enough to keep orbits from decaying without propellant. gotta try stuff but it needs to perform well first before heavy investment comes

Pro. Logic · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Yes I very much Liked this video . I give it 2 x10 100,000,000,000,000,000. power thumbs up.

Pro. Logic · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Doesn't any one remember how sit on a swing and without out pushing on the ground with your two feet just lean forward then back then forward and keep doing that until you are swing forward and then back wards until your moving getting some good speed going there, and getting high off the ground to with just the energy from leaning forwards then backwards????. NASA very much needs a brain like mine working for them!. Deep Thoughts by Pro-Logic

MrSaid88 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

We are moving to slow to space

Pro. Logic · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

A solar sail simulator can be seen in the movie "Tron". "A Trip To The Moon" the 1902 Science Fiction Film By Georges Melies , That became a reality, Men did go to the Moon and walked about on it's surface.

Pro. Logic · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This light sail, it can work it will work the trick to making it work is to reduce the mass of the ship to as little as possible or even zero perhaps a static warp field then it's just a matter of time for the ship to reach incredible speeds.

josema7111 · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Didn't Disney already prove this, in one of their movies,? I forgot the name, planet x, or space pirates, mmm i forgot, anybody remember???

Haitian Xu · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

This technology looks cool on paper but one tiny space debris the size of your pinky and it's game over. Not practical at all.

superphi · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Yeah but what micro meteors

Yathu prem · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Light has no mass but momentum ? Someone explain this please? And how light sail control it's trajectory?

Erza Scarlet · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

It would really suck if that rips in space

MIGUEL GOMEZ · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I dont think it is as a primary because the distance it might have from a source but I do think it would be a just in case option to have if you get my point. In my opinion it should be a addition.

Cross · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

U know how much crap is floating in space? That thing will get shredded if there are debris all over the place

Mindless Shoppers · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I'll wait for advances in Quantum Computing, Nuclear Fusion and Warp Drive with AI assistance thanks. Sounds like fun sailing though our Solar System Pond, but I would like to power through the ocean of galaxies !

Senen Espada · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

LightSail 2 will prove that the Earth is?…..

What_are_we_doing ? · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Wot? It uses solar wind? Not light?!?!?! Kinda confusing name lol

K M · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

this is fake science and those two are jokers

ACA Learn · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

sir iam your big fan please pin my comments please

Chris Tucka · July 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Its crazy what NASA does….n I have school loans Lmao

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