LightSail, an experimental solar-powered spacecraft orbiting the Earth, has finally deployed its Mylar sails, Bill Nye proudly announced Sunday. The tiny 11 pound solar sail satellite is the work of a The Planetary Society, a non-government organization that promotes space research. Its goal is to make space exploration affordable and efficient by building a spacecraft that sails entirely on beams of light.
LightSail is just on a test mission at this stage. Even though the sail has deployed, the spacecraft’s orbit is too low to allow the solar power to push it out of the atmospheric drag. For now, the LightSail is making sure that functions like sail deployment, communications and imaging are operational.
LightSail moves through space by sailing on beams of light. Light is made up of tiny particles called photons, and when many photons are hitting the solar sail, they will theoretically push the spacecraft forward.
Though LightSail is nowhere near being capable of sailing a group of humans to Mars for the holidays, it is able to carry data and information, including your selfie. So even if you’re never going to launch your own solar-powered spacecraft, you can still get in on the fun by being part of the first collection of selfies to make it into space.