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Press Room

Watch the First Solar Sail Fly Overhead!


Mat Kaplan
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

On June 21, 2005, Cosmos 1, a project of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, is launching a breakthrough mission to assist the world community in developing future solar sail technologies. Four days after launch, the spacecraft will deploy its eight silver sails and become one of the brightest objects crossing the night sky.

With Solar Sail Watch, people around the world can watch this history-making spacecraft streak through space. This program is designed to help the general public spot Cosmos 1 in their neighborhoods. For complete details, visit the Solar Sail Watch web page.

"We hope Solar Sail Watch will make it easier for people to find Cosmos 1 in their own skies, to take their family and friends outside for a look. If we achieve our dreams for this mission, we think someday people will want to tell others that they actually saw the very first spacecraft to ride the light," said Ann Druyan, CEO of Cosmos Studios and Cosmos 1 Project Manager.

Solar Sail Watch works in conjunction with the Heavens Above website to provide data about when Cosmos 1 will be visible and the best way to observe the spacecraft. Visitors to the site will simply enter their location to receive updates on when the solar sail's orbit will make it visible in their vicinity. Once its sails unfurl, Cosmos 1 should be bright enough to be easily seen by the naked eye.

In addition to viewing the sail, Solar Sail Watch invites people to help track Cosmos 1 and to photograph its progress. Photographers can enter their best photos in the Solar Sail Watch photography contest.

One particularly interesting "watch" will come from the United States Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing Site (AMOS) in Hawaii, which will attempt to image the sail as soon as possible after deployment.

"High resolution pictures from Earth," notes Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and Cosmos 1 Project Director, "could be as beautiful as photos taken from shore of sailboats in the ocean."

The Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts, also will image the spacecraft from the ground. This school provided the dramatic pictures of SpaceShipOne in flight September 29 and October 4, 2004 when it carried out the first privately funded human spaceflight.

The innovative solar sail, which was built in Russia, will launch atop a converted ICBM from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. Built by the Lavochkin Association and the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the spacecraft will be controlled from the Lavochkin Association in Moscow. A Project Operations Center will be located at The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California.


About The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.