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Planetary RadioJune 19, 2019

Flight by Light: A LightSail 2 Mission Preview

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On This Episode
Headshot of Jennifer Vaughn
Jennifer Vaughn

Chief Operating Officer, The Planetary Society

Jason Davis thumbnail
Jason Davis

Digital Editor, The Planetary Society

Bill Nye headshot
Bill Nye

Chief Executive Officer, The Planetary Society

Headshot of Bruce Betts
Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager, The Planetary Society

Headshot of Mat Kaplan
Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer

The day is almost here. With the launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket, The Planetary Society will begin its mission to prove that a tiny, orbiting spacecraft can be propelled by the light of the Sun. Society Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Vaughn provides a passionate history of our efforts and reviews the opportunities for everyone to get involved. Then LightSail Program Manager Bruce Betts and Digital Editor Jason Davis will dig into this amazing mission and spacecraft. Society CEO Bill Nye will make the basics of solar sailing fun in his special presentation, right after this week’s What’s Up segment.

LightSail 2

Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

LightSail 2
Artist's concept of LightSail 2 above Earth.

Trivia Contest

This week's prizes:

A priceless Planetary Society KickAsteroid rubber asteroid, a 200-point astronomy account AND Heroes of the Space Age by Rod Pyle.

This week's question:

From what type of spacecraft will the six COSMIC-2 spacecraft launching with LightSail 2 draw their signals from in order to study the Earth’s atmosphere?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, June 26th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Where in the solar system is a feature named Dogana?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the May 30 space trivia contest:

What is the alloy that the LightSail 2 booms are made of? These long booms pull the sections of the solar sail out of the body of the spacecraft.


We accepted cobalt steel, but the alloy from which LightSail 2’s solar sail booms are made is actually called Elgiloy, and it contains much more than cobalt, iron and carbon.


NOTE: This automated transcript is being edited by a human. Check back soon for updates.

[00:00:00] Flight by light a light sail preview this week on planetary radio.

Welcome. I'm at Kaplan of the planetary Society with more of the Human Adventure across our solar system and beyond this time. We've got a special look ahead at the mission of light sail to. I may already be on Florida's Space Coast is you hear this eagerly anxiously looking forward to the launch of the planetary society's little cubesat Bruce Betts.

And Jason Davis will tell you what to expect in minutes and we've got a special treat at the end of today's show when Society CEO Bill Nye the Science Guy will explain the basics of solar sailing. What's up with Bruce's also ahead. We'll Begin by spending a few minutes with the Chief Operating Officer of the planetary Society.

Jennifer. Vaughn was already bills second-in-command. When our test mission lightsail one lifted off. [00:01:00] She is even more excited to see this first attempt to use the light of the sun to propel our silver winged spacecraft Jennifer. We don't hear from you often enough on planetary radio. This certainly gives us a wonderful reason.

I was going to say excuse to get you heard directly on the show. Thank you for joining us to talk a little bit about this wonderful mission. That is about to begin. Thank you Matt it I am so excited to be here and I am fired up about lightsail as are we all ten years in the making take us back to the beginnings of of this project and then we'll talk about the even earlier.

Work that the society did with solar sailing. Yes. So depending on where you want to start that history line with us. It can go much further back than 10 years, but ten years is really what was the beginning of light sail for those who have been following along with us [00:02:00] and know our story. We had some 008 an earlier attempt at solar sailing, but after a failed rocket launch, we went back to the drawing board.

We hit the. And said, hey, what should we do? If we went to our members and said what do you want us to do do you want us to try again? Or should we just move on and do something else and our members came out and said very loudly and very proudly try again. Do this again? So with that we went and said, okay.

Well what could be different this time around and where might we have an opportunity with solar sailing and that question line of questioning. Let us to the design of a very small spacecraft and a propulsion mechanism that might work for other small spacecraft and that's became light sail. Four years ago we had light sale one and I know you get this question all the time because all of us do didn't we proved that we could pull this [00:03:00] off for years ago.

We proved that we could pull off some of it you years ago. So what's really important to remember what lightsail one is there was no solar Sailing by sell one was a hundred percent a demonstration of the sale deployment. All we were doing was making sure that we could get a spacecraft in orbit. We could talk to the spacecraft and we could deploy the sail safely and then it got pulled back into into Earth's atmosphere.

So it was over there was no sailing. You are proud of ourselves and it was exciting and the world was along that Journey with us. But really all we did was prove that the deployer work. So this is our first chance at really proving solar sailing in Earth orbit. And that means controlling our spacecraft every 90 minutes when it passes.

We have to actively control that sale. Let's go back to that earlier project that you alluded to Cosmos one, which is was the [00:04:00] real. First attempt by the planetary Society to to fly a solar sail. Yeah, so it seems like a million years ago right now and it really was quite a long time ago. So 2005 is when we launched Cosmos one, and of course, it was many years in the making so we really can trace back our history in solar sailing as far as the planetary Society is investment in a project all the way back to 1999.

So right a 20-year anniversary. When this first when the idea first started being clocked at the planetary Society could we as a citizen funded group have our own solar sail Mission our own Planet our own mission in general, but solar cell was what we were targeted on and that became Cosmos one, which was a wonderful partnership with a number of contacts that are previous executive director Lew Friedman made in Russia along with the support of.

[00:05:00] Andrian so Andrea and was our key financial sponsor of Cosmos one and our members were absolutely behind as backers of the mission and all together. We came up with this very large elegant 8 bladed sale. It was much much more complex than white sale. And their pros and cons to that complex this nest of the means better.

It just was a much more complex spacecraft and we got a built we got to test it. We got it ready to go. I lost it and then we heard it was in the. Yeah, you and I were there 14 years ago. I mean Lou Friedman was actually there for the launch of Cosmos one from from a Russian submarine. But all of us were in the old home of the planetary Society following along and there's no getting around that it was a tremendous disappointment, but something that I'm still very proud of.

Oh, absolutely. And I [00:06:00] think all of our members should be very very proud. Again. This is history in the making for citizen funded spacecraft and they started with Cosmos and it was quite the letdown. But again, they rallied behind the organization. They were enthusiastic about try it again. And here we are.

We're right on the precipice ready to launch again and I. Very high hopes that this is going to go great this time. Yeah, you and me both you mentioned Andrew Ian who probably everyone knows was the partner in every way of one of our three founders Carl Sagan and of course since then has been very busy.

Creating things like Cosmos and then in fact, that's how she and Carl Met the first time around for the first edition of Cosmos that starred Carl Sagan, but she has also been the creator of the Latter-Day Cosmos series longtime supporter both monetarily of projects like this, but certainly her heart is [00:07:00] has always been with us as well.

Didn't she have a role in The Genesis of the light sail project? She did she has a roll. I would CE and the Visionary very much like Carl and Lou and Bruce Murray our Founders and to is a Visionary and she saw she was of course very saddened by the loss of Cosmos one. She had very high hopes and she put a lot behind that.

So over the sad day, but when we had the opportunity to look forward to another step it was and who really came out in our on our behalf and helped us raise the initial funding to do a study and that study is what led us to see what we could do with small spacecraft and maybe a high-power propulsion mechanism like solar sailing and we might be able to really take a dent into solving this problem of how.

You Sly small spacecraft was very little fuel. Take us [00:08:00] back one more time to four years ago, the launch of lightsail one and its successful Mission and what that meant for the planetary society and those tens of thousands of people around the world who supported that that first test. I think our supporters have been wonderfully patient space projects take a long long time and there's just no way around that but 10 years since the failure of Cosmos one before they had an opportunity to see this project fly again, and it was such a high point.

I remember sitting on the bleachers watching that rocket go off and as soon as I had started to see. Just lose sight of the rocket as it started a curve off in the distance. I started blubbering. I just couldn't believe that the spacecraft was finally where it belonged no longer on Earth. It was never meant to live here on Earth.

It was [00:09:00] meant to go off and do something and it was so exciting to see that and to know that regardless of what we learned from the. We got to this point. We were actually going to be able to test something in space and we had highs and lows. It was a rollercoaster ride lightsail one a lot worked some things didn't work.

So well in the end we were able to prove out everything we wanted to prevent. So it was a success the sales deployed. We got that beautiful picture of the say a shiny sale with a sudden the distance now, I'm excited to get so many more pictures and actually be able to prove out that we can change.

Orbit, through sale is not just deploy the sale. I was so proud to be sitting one row on those bleachers below you and Bill Nye our CEO of the planetary Society for years ago. I sure look forward to repeating that experience. Is that where we're going to be again on those bleachers? Maybe not on the bleachers, but in the same area with that same beautiful [00:10:00] view of all the rocket pads really it's from that area of KSC.

It's such a gorgeous place. To view rocket launches will be there will be there with hundreds of planetary Society members and supporters. If you're listening to this right away, you might still be able to get a ticket and go and join us there. It's going to be wonderful fund really a moment unlike in my world at least unlike any other that I've had in my history.

So it's very memorable its history in the making were very excited to be doing this again. You win exactly where I was hoping to and the opportunity that may still exist for people to join us not just for the launch, but for other things happening around it a member briefing that all be involved with and even beyond the events that we are planning for members and others at KSC the Kennedy Space Center.

We are encouraging and even providing some [00:11:00] guidance to to others who might want to create their own sort of grass. Route celebration of this mission. You got it. We want people everywhere celebrating watching bringing their friends together telling people about this project. So if you want to host a launch party, if you want tools to help spread the word on social media or to your friends to your family.

We have videos we have resources we have tool kits that you can download if you want to get out there and volunteer in your community. This is an exciting time again to show the importance of. Through its organizations like the planetary society and what we all can do collectively we bring our passion together and we set an audacious dream we can get there.

So it's a great moment to try to rally that. Thank you, Jennifer. I can't wait. I sure hope that things don't slip or at least not by much in that on that evening of the 24th of June. [00:12:00] We watch that big Falcon heavy carry light sail up into Earth orbit. Go lightsail. Go on sale go lights out. That's Jennifer Vaughn the Chief Operating Officer of the planetary Society looking forward to that lunch.

We too. Bruce patch is not just the chief scientist of the planetary Society. He has served as lightsail program manager for many years coordinating the many elements that must come together for a successful Mission planetary Society digital editor. Jason Davis is also our embedded reporter in the project.

No journalist knows the effort better or has spent more time writing about. Bruce Jason, thank you very much. Great to get both of you on at the same time to talk about this this imminent launch. We just heard from Jennifer about how excited she is and I shared my own similar emotions regarding this.

How are you guys feeling in these last days? [00:13:00] Leading up toward what we hope at least will be the launch of lightsail excited man, really really excited and and a little tense. Yeah. Well, I don't know anybody who's got better reason to be a little bit tense about it Jason the same the same and I'm just having gone through the first time around I'm always a little bit nervous, but no, I'm feeling good about it as we as we get close here that thinks things are looking good.

So let's keep it that way. Are we now are maybe better stated as where is light sail to right now right now. This spacecraft is at Kennedy Space Center in The Possession presumably of SpaceX get either already mounted on the launch vehicle or about to be mounted on the launch vehicle. We're hoping we might get a picture of it but that's not confirmed yet, but we know that it's down there and it's either on the vehicle already are getting close to being on the vehicle with prox one.

It's inside procs one. [00:14:00] Bruce yes, so it's inside the Georgia Tech spacecraft procs one and will be a ejected from products one a week after launch is this procs ones main function now is basically to babysit lightsail to and until it says goodbye. Seven days. Later. Yeah, I think that's the the main thing but it's a student built spacecraft.

So it's demonstrating the ability to do this who is selected along with light sale as part of the inside of it by the university Nana said program of the Air Force and Department of Defense for this launch. That's how we ended up with the launch to an altitude Which is higher than usual and useful to us for solar Sail.

At this point is lightsail to essentially on its own or at least in the sense that you know, we can't any longer top off the batteries it and it is it just fast asleep for the moment. Yes. It is in [00:15:00] technical terms chilling hard inside procs one will be inside the rocket. We did the last top off of the batteries a couple months ago and delivered it for integration at afrl Air Force research laboratory into procs one.

It will remain dormant until it is deployed from Proxima. I want to know when you guys last stood in the presence of the spacecraft. I'm wondering if I had that opportunity more recently than you because of that visit. I made up to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Jason. When when did you last see light sail to I think the last time I saw it, was it Cal Poly.

I'm just trying to think which specific test it was. It might have been the last day in the life test and if that's the case than it has definitely been a year. I would say if it's not. That we kind of put it in storage and didn't get it out much after that Bruce. I'll a sod more than a year ago.

So yes, Matt you saw Lance and I [00:16:00] win did you touch it Max give it one last goodbye poke or anything. If so, you shouldn't tell us I warned you not to touch it. I know I told the people there at Cal Poly I said. If anything goes wrong because they slid it out of the the little pea pod carrier and I said, you know what Bruce is going to do to me if anything happens to this spacecraft because I'm here and you want to show it to me and they kept saying oh no.

No, it's no problem. No problem at all. I want names and when we return to the scene of the crime, we're going to say well who was the last person to actually see the spacecraft and know you come on guys you Jason you especially know that I must. My source, right right. Are we working any issues is everything hunky-dory to use the technical term?

Yeah. Everything's pretty hunky-dory. We're at doing things you do when launches actually are. Really finally going to happen. [00:17:00] So we're reviewing the operations procedures and making sure we're all comfortable and happy with that and the choices we've made and reviewing the timing and trying to guess what orbit it's going to be in and do predictions of ground station passes.

So it's we're doing things but the spacecraft is in pretty good shape as far as we know and we did an awful lot of testing to try to confirm that. Already mentioned Bruce that it'll be seven days being carried by procs one before lightsail is ejected into space on its own do is that correct? Yes.

That is correct. Then what take us through sort of the the timeline from that point where it says goodbye to procs one and I guess that's nearly seven days after procs one itself has left the Falcon heavy. Yeah, so it's actually seven days after procs one leaves the Falcon heavy. It leaves the [00:18:00] Falcon heavy about an hour and 20 minutes after launch in the second set of deployment the second orbit that they deploy spacecraft into from the rocket light sail to is in procs one for one week and then timer goes off and you don't hear it because it's in space but this the spacecraft nose and it ejects lightsail to using a.

Sleeve Jack-in-the-Box mechanism the Cal Poly developed Peapod and few minutes later lights L2 will automatically deploy its little antenna that it uses for radio communications and will begin what should be pretty much constantly. Transmitting a beacon signal that gives us basic spacecraft information and data Telemetry data as well.

As a morse code signal of its call sign that will occur every 45 seconds or so by then we'll know the orbit. So we'll be able to calculate tracking passes that are ground stations and [00:19:00] start to establish Communications. Do all the things in our procedure plans establishing the initial setup of the spacecraft after.

Testing how it's gone. And what's going on and then a few days after launch. We will deploy the solar panels so it opens up and then we'll do another check out and a day or two later deploy the solar sails. And so that's about a little less than a week or a week will see depends on how things are going with the communications passes are and we'll start solar sailing where we go face onto the Sun for half an orbit and Edge on for half an orbit and use that to increase the orbit in a measurable way to prove that.

We're actually doing controlled solar sailing in a cubesat. My light sail to preview conversation with Bruce Betts and Jason Davis continues after this break stay with us for what's up and a special solar sailing explainer from Bill Nye 40 years [00:20:00] ago. My professor Carl Sagan shared his dream of exploring the cosmos with solar sails the planetary Society slight sale to will soon become the first small spacecraft to be propelled Only By the Light of the sun.

I'm Bill Nye and I'll be there is a rocket carries our craft into or. Tens of thousands of members have made this day possible already part of our lightsail team. Thank you. It's never too late to join us. Learn how at planetary dot org slash join. Welcome back to a special planetary radio light sail to preview.

I'm at Kaplan of the planetary Society with my colleagues Bruce Betts and Jason Davis. I want to come back to that topic of communication in a moment. But before we do Jason, let's go back to the Falcon heavy. It's interesting. I have come to think of this Mission as sort of a bus with the the several stops along the way where passengers are getting off.

Yeah, and this is a pretty interesting mission for SpaceX in [00:21:00] particular. The first reason that doesn't necessarily have to do with the bus pieces that this will be the first time the Department of Defense is used. Rocket with a reusable 3 Isabel booster. So the first time they've done that with the SpaceX actually, I'm sure people will immediately say what about space shuttle?

So I'm going to take that back and say the first time with SpaceX is reusable boosters that flew back to land. The mission then itself is it's going to three different orbits and dropping off all sorts of different payloads that each orbital stop the first orbit. It's going to drop off some cubesats and one other small set second orbit were first off.

Rocket and that's into a circular orbit about seven hundred twenty kilometers high. It's going to drop off some other small sets there and then the second spot for the upper stage with all the payloads on it will be a circular orbit about seven hundred twenty kilometers high procs one will be the first spacecraft off of the rocket at that point.

[00:22:00] They'll be some more small satellites and then. They'll be a six satellite payload called Cosmic to that was developed between NOAA here in the US and the Taiwanese space agency. It's an experiment to measure the temperature and pressure of Earth's atmosphere. The third stop then is an orbit even higher and that's where the rocket will deploy the final payload.

It's a space weather experiment from the Air Force called DSX. So yeah 24 different spacecraft three different orbits. It's going to be a lot to watch Bruce remind us how to like sale come to be a part of this big crowd. We were looking for a lunch and we needed a high enough orbit where the solar radiation pressure the light pressure that we use for solar sailing would actually dominate over the atmospheric drag from having a little tiny spacecraft in a big giant sail [00:23:00] and even though we think of like 400 kilometers up as being space there's still enough hemisphere that that drags things down and that's what happened to lightsail one.

We knew it. Got dragged in after a week or ten days. Well, in this case, we it's trickier to find a launch higher, especially if you don't have tens of millions of dollars in your pocket to buy your own rocket, and we didn't and so we partnered with Georgia Tech and they were proposing to the university and anisette program the products one spacecraft, but they were looking for a partner.

And so we partnered with them and they won the competition for a student built spacecraft and it was designed to include our spacecraft inside and go to the 720 kilometer orbit, which should be high enough where the radiation pressure dominates over the solar the atmospheric drag. Simple nice serendipitous result so back to that issue of communication, but not just communication but communication and [00:24:00] command which is which is a challenge always for any team that has a spacecraft off of this planet.

How's that going to work? Well, we'll use four different ground stations on Earth the primary ground station. Is it Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo? And that's what we use for lightsail one. But also they have flown numerous cubesats over the years and communicate with them from there. And then we also have tracking stations at Purdue and Georgia Tech and then particularly useful for coverage is wanted Kawaii Community College in Hawaii because it's at a lower latitude and this orbit is a 24 degree inclination.

So it's he doesn't come over the higher latitudes as. From and so we use. Everything's coordinated out of Cal Poly and then received or transmitted depending on where the spacecraft is. So you've just answered my next question. It's the Cal Poly [00:25:00] team our partners there who will actually do the communication.

Light sail, yes, and they've also under John bilardo. They're developed the software that's being used on the spacecraft including communication and different routines that will use although the more of the team will participate in the process. We already have planned number of our Communications based on what we plan to do in space.

I here's a topic which I don't know put you through a lot of Heck. If not, he'll working with the Federal Communications Commission the FCC to get permission to talk to our spacecraft tell us about that. Yeah, oddly enough. We wanted to talk to our spacecraft and if you use a radio to do that, then you are subject to FCC regulations, which are subject or participate in international Telecommunications.

Union protocols so they're basically was [00:26:00] a large complex process to get the freak radiofrequency allotted and agreed upon by all the different players also the international amateur radio Union and there were there were changes in regulations and delays and bureaucrats. Disagreeing with bureaucrats in the end the bottom line is it all worked out and we have a license to operate our little tiny transmitter in space and communicate with it from our transmitters on the ground man.

Another reason space is hard how automated will the operation of lightsail be for either of you. I mean you already said Bruce on each of its orbit as we try to raise that orbit. It's going to. To reorient itself. What a 90-degree turn twice for each one of those is that going to have to be commanded from Earth by human beings or is lightsail going to be handling that on its own light.

[00:27:00] So we'll handle that on its own. There are key points in the mission that we retain control from the Earth to do those things. So deployment of the solar panels and deployment of the solar sail being the two most notable that happens. Through Earth command, but just taking care of itself happens automatically.

So orienting itself, depending on what mode we put it in it orient's itself relative to the Earth's magnetic field to optimize Communications. It's always in the process of charging its batteries and keeping track of the batteries are a lot of software things in place to deal with possible issues a lot more than we had on lightsail one.

So that the text some of its own problems and attempts to fix them through rebooting processes or rebooting the entire spacecraft in fact, so it's a combination but once we get to that solar sailing, it's an automated [00:28:00] operation. We just couldn't count on commanding it regularly enough to command every everything that goes on.

Yeah, that would have been quite a job for somebody or for several somebodies as the program manager for lightsail. I can kind of Imagine. What you're going to be up to during this spacecraft operations period Jason, what do you expect to be doing as our embedded reporter? Every time there is a major mission Milestone.

Obviously, we will be talking about it will have regular coverage on the blog with everything that. Everything that happens we'll also try to cover some of the minor stuff as well, you know in between Milestones that may not be as notable to the general public but through you know some of our members that like to really get the nitty-gritty details will definitely cover some of that as well.

And then we'll also have a lot of resources online if you want to keep up with the mission specifically how the spacecraft is doing. [00:29:00] We will have a dashboard where you'll be able to go and see Telemetry coming in from the spacecraft and see what its last reported values for a whole bunch of different things are in fact, we even have a spot where you can download some of the raw data if you want to play with it yourself though.

Also be a spot on that dashboard where you can enter in. Your location and get past predictions for when the spacecraft might be visible for you this time. It's flying a little bit closer to the Equator than lightsail one did so not as many people will be able to see it. We mentioned some of that on the sailboat planetary that org website right now.

But once the sale was deployed we expect that you will be able to see it depending on your orientation and how the spacecraft's oriented. So we'll have all that information up and tell you where to look in the sky if if you hopefully want to catch a glimpse of it and a lot of this stuff is available right now at planetary dot organ course.

Thanks to Jason and others it's going to be a big presence [00:30:00] on all of the planetary Society social media and I should say here on planetary radio as well Bruce. How long does light sail need to do what we hope it's going to do for us to say yes. This was a successful. Demonstration of solar Sailing by a cubesat after the sale deploys.

We've defined our primary Mission as a month after that to demonstrate controlled solar sailing changing the orbit the way we expect to change the orbit depending on how things work with tracking the spacecraft that may happen within days or it may be weeks before we're able to do that. We anticipate changing the orbit by.

Up to a few hundred meters per day. We have two ways to track the spacecraft one is just through the Air Force and their standard tracking of all spacecraft and delivering orbital elements that describe the orbits [00:31:00] from that but we're also partnering with the international laser ranging service and we have little tiny Corner Cube reflectors on the spacecraft.

So various stations around the. World will be shooting lasers up and trying to hit lightsail. And if they do then they'll get an instantaneous measurement of exactly where it is or quite precisely anyway, so that may enable us to determine things even faster if it works, right? And that sounds like a fun game for them to be playing.

I want to say I'm just I'm proud to live on a planet that has an international laser what you say ranging service? Yeah, pretty cool. And so we applied and can have them do this and they accepted us and so it's moving forward cool job. When can we expect to see the first pictures the first images from the cameras on lightsail?

Well again if things. Go. Well, there will be some very boring pictures in the first [00:32:00] two three four days or so. So when the spacecraft panels are still closed, we will take test pictures from the cameras and download a couple of those and so we'll just show kind of the whatever lights leaking in will see the deployment motor and some wires and exciting things like that.

Once we deploy the solar panels a few days into the mission, then the the cameras are on those panels and we plan to take pictures and hopefully have those out and released. Hopefully even before sale deployment and then we will take a whole sequence of images from the two different fisheye lenses foot looking different directions and hopefully create movies.

Pseudo movies images every few seconds of this 3-minute deployment that will actually show them the deployment now, we should get thumbnails of that within a day or [00:33:00] two after the sale deploys and then it'll depend on Communications passes how how long it takes to download the images the larger images.

Can't wait Jason. Where are you going to be for the launch? I suspect you won't be very far from me. Probably not. Yeah, as far as I know I. Be at the Saturn V Center, which is where a lot of planetary Society members who have tickets to view the launch with us will be alternatively I would be out at the NASA press site.

But I think we're kind of still working out who's going to be where but either way. I will be right there at the launch watching it go just like you. Yes, and what will be the best way for for people listening to us now and everybody else to follow, you know Moment by moment what happens? As we count down to the watch planetary dot-org always has the latest and greatest news and things we put out as well as our social media accounts are usually the same way and for the launch itself [00:34:00] space will have the live stream will probably embed that on our homepage as well.

So people can just One Stop Shop come to our website and watch it all happen. And anybody who hasn't watched the SpaceX live coverage of these launches that they do you're missing out its makes for great television. If I do say so myself and of course planetary Society Twitter is at explore planets guys.

Thank you for this preview and go lightsail. Ye go like, oh, yeah. That's Bruce Betts the light sail program manager for the planetary Society. Also our chief scientist and and by the way, as you might expect you'll be joining us again in just a moment or two here for this week's what's up? And Jason Davis are digital editor at the society the embedded reporter for many years now with light sail.

As promised we see The Return of the chief scientist of the [00:35:00] planetary Society you've been away so long. It's Bruce Betts back to do what we do every week. We'll get to report online sale every now and then although maybe more frequently in the coming weeks. If all goes well, right totally do the return of light sail to just like the return of respects the Revenge of Bruce Betts.

I want to see that sequel tell us. Up that great sky that light sails headed into nice segue. Thank you. Thank you parties in the evening with Jupiter already up in the early evening. Looking super Pride over in the East brighter than any star in the sky. Hanging out to the left of the dimmer, but redder and Terry's the bright.

Reddish Red Giant star in Scorpius can give you a nice chance to learn the constellation Scorpius and over kind of the other direction to the left is Sagittarius. So [00:36:00] it's it's a lovely lovely set up and and Saturn's Rising not too long after Sunset and will appear in the East looking yellowish over in Sagittarius.

And so both good targets for Visible looks or binoculars or telescopes. We move onto this week in space history was 15 years ago 2004 that spaceship one became the first private human spaceflight. I have to say it again rub it in I know but I was on the tarmac watching it had into space. It was one of the Great Moments, you know, you've rubbed it in so many times I'm starting to believe you were actually responsible for him.

Yeah. Yeah, Peter diamandis and some other people. A lot to do with it, but I played my part. All right, we'll move away from that and move on to run space fuck good boy. [00:37:00] Apollo 10 was the only Apollo crew all of whose members went on to fly subsequent missions aboard Apollo spacecraft. John Young later.

Commanded Apollo 16 Gene. Cernan Apollo 17 and Tom Stafford commanded apollo-soyuz test project the Apollo side of that. So nobody should feel bad for these guys because everybody always says You must have wanted to just drop down those last few miles kilometers, right? Into just do it. Well, they got the reward exactly.

All right. So we move on to the trivia contest and it's an obscure trivia about lightsail to I asked you. What is the name of the alloy that the light sail spacecraft booms the things. Pull the sail out and give it structure. What are they made of how do we do ma'am? First? I have to share this response from Perry with you Perry in New York New York.

As our boss says the town [00:38:00] so nice, they named it twice, you know every time when people fill out the form to enter the competition it says tell us how to pronounce your name doesn't mean we won't mangle it that I won't mangle it, but at least we get a shot at it. So Perry says how to pronounce my name exhale air and vibrate your vocal chords while changing the shape of your mouth and upper Airway to modulate the sound.

Yeah, it's supposed to rain there were interesting responses this time because the majority of people came up with something which was not exactly what you were looking for. There were a few who totally got lost out of there Tim and Edmond Oklahoma who. The put in a great effort to try and find it even checked on the light sail academic resources page but didn't come up with anything.

He said would dr. Betts have been kind enough to accept simply metal.

[00:39:00] Here's our winner Daniel in Forest Hills, New York get this. He's a past winner. It has been actually more than five and a half years since he last won the competition dedication. Here is his response. The light sail to booms are made of cobalt steel. He says if I'm reading the spacecraft specifications in your lightsail facts are fact correctly.

Is he right? Yes, that's what we said. They're made of but you have reservations I've reservations and I and I'm not a metallurgist. So maybe one out there can correct me. But the the alloy is it sold trademark named as a. Boy, it is indeed Cobalt, but it's a Cobalt chromium nickel molybdenum, alloy.

And so I would think and I had this question led me to find this on our website that I would not be called Cobalt [00:40:00] steel because it doesn't necessarily have or has very little carbon and iron is mostly Cobalt and some and chromium, but I'm going to take it because you know, we said that's what it was.

Well joy, or Cobalt steel or a Cobalt alloy or any more gory detail of what this. Spoofing with wonderful magical strength and anti-corrosion properties is that Air Force research laboratory created our booms made of this stuff. Daniel therefore you squeaked through also gratitude and congratulations to everybody who came up with the right answer as did a minority of entrance who responded with l-jalal oi by the way.

Daniel ads were all hoping for and looking forward to the successful launch and mission of light sail to later this very month. Ad Astra Daniel, thank you. You are going to receive a Priceless planetary Society kick asteroid rubber [00:41:00] asteroid a 200-point i telescope dotnet astronomy account on that worldwide nonprofit network of telescopes and a copy of chasing New Horizons inside the Epic first mission to Pluto by our friends Alan Stern and David grinspoon, the paperback version of that tub.

Terrific book has has just come out I have. This week not one but two poems inspired by your question. Wow here is Jeanne at Fairchild Air Force Base in the state of Washington. The nautical greeting was once a hallway on sailing ships of your winds were what the sales employed to move from Shore to Shore photons will now drive us on as light sail to deploys for mylar panels just microns thick on booms of l-jalal.

Oy. Not he's isn't that great. Nice work nice work. Congratulations on that and we will finish with our poet. That's Dave Fairchild in [00:42:00] Shawnee, Kansas. You want to take a sale an extended while in space? So only get two metallic booms a mylar type Embrace an alloy mix of Steel and some Cobalt will be fine.

We're headed for a winner on the photon Finish Line to great efforts. All right from what type of spacecraft will be Cosmic to set of spacecraft launching with light sail to from what? Type of spacecraft will they be receiving signals from in order to study the Earth's atmosphere? Go to planetary that org slash radio contest.

That's interesting. I can't wait to find out you have until Wednesday June 26th with any luck two days after the launch of light sail and these other spacecraft on the Falcon heavy Wednesday, June 26 at 8 a.m. Pacific time to get us your answer and you might be the one who wins a. Planetary [00:43:00] Society kick asteroid rubber asteroid a 200-point i telescope dotnet account and this time still got a lot of books here.

A lot of great books from our friend Rod Pyle who is also the editor-in-chief of Ad Astra magazine. He's written so many books lately. This one is Heroes of the Space Age. And it's really about seven books in one they are profiles of people from Yuri Gagarin to Pete Conrad of Apollo 12 and and other things it's a terrific little book and it might be yours with those other prizes.

We're done. All right, everybody go out there look up the night sky and think about whether disturbing childhood Jingles actually tell us that we should be calling Saturn the Rosie. Thank you. And goodnight. Goodnight Ring Around the Rosie pocket full of posies. He's Bruce Betts the chief scientist of the planetary society and the program manager for lightsail who joins us every week here for [00:44:00] what's up.

I've saved the most fun for last planetary Society CEO Bill Nye worked with our video producer Mark. Boyan to create a fun introduction to solar sailing. I hope this specially edited version of the video soundtrack will make you want to visit our special light sale site at sale dot planetary dot-org.

That's where you can watch the video in all its Glory. Hey Bill Nye here at the planetary Society talking about solar sailing now most spacecraft get pushed through space with some kind of Rocket Fuel the momentum of the fuel going this way pushes the spacecraft that way there are a few different types of fuel that are you.

Space travel but they all come out of an onboard fuel tank. So they all eventually run out of gas if you will and when they do that's it. They're done no more propellant mean. No more push but a solar sail spacecraft like this one doesn't need ordinary Rocket Fuel instead. It gets pushed through [00:45:00] space.

The free supply of energy the pressure of light light is made up of particles we call photons. So imagine this ping pong ball is a photon a single particle of light now photons way. They have no Mass, but they still have momentum.  If we have a spacecraft that's low enough mass and big and reflective enough.

Then photons can give it a little push each Photon and parts just a tiny bit of momentum, but the Sun Pumps out billions and billions of them every second. Now imagine this happy cookie sheet is the reflective sale of a spacecraft

gets a push through space. In the vacuum of space. It really works solar sailing is a game changer. These spacecraft can be steered a lot like sailing ships at Sea. They can be pushed away from the Sun or turn and [00:46:00] Tack toward the Sun the someday soon. We could be sailing around the solar system with the unlimited energy of sunlight.

And maybe one day in the future. We could even sell one to another stop.

But of course one test is worth a thousand expert opinion. So we at the planetary Society are going to fly our light sail to spacecraft and learn more about actual flight by light you might think that a spacecraft has to be a huge thing made with a lot of money from a big government agency, but lightsail is a small rectangular box of a satellite called a cube set and it was.

By amazing everyday people who are inspired by space exploration like this guy. Huh me. Yes you or if you contributed or pitched in to our Kickstarter campaign or if you're a [00:47:00] planetary Society member this is your spacecraft over 40,000 human people's made this project happen, and there was one dog.

Well, thank you.  Back in 2015. We flew lightsail 1 there was a test flight and a pretty. Its orbit the mechanics of the spacecraft worked and we even snapped the stunning photo of the sale in space. It's beautiful and soon light sail to will ride on a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket will go to a higher orbit and do some more complex Maneuvers.

The shiny sale will be visible from here on Earth for about a year the descendants of light sail to me one day travel to the Stars. If I may how cool is that?

Planetary radio is produced by the planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by [00:48:00] our high-flying members Mary Liz Benders our associate producer Josh soil composed our theme which was arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. I'm at Kaplan Ad Astra and go light sail.


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