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Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” made a visit to Cal Poly on Wednesday for a planned demonstration of a solar sailing satellite built in collaboration with students.
Nye is the CEO of The Planetary Society, which is managing the development of the satellite. Nye, famous for hosting a science television show for children in the 1990s, chatted with students involved in the project, and even took selfies with those that requested it.
The simulation had to be postponed until next week, however, after problems occurred with the radio transmitter. The plan was to unfurl the satellite’s thin mylar solar sails, as well as test the satellite’s ability to transmit to the ground station at Cal Poly.
The satellite, called LightSail, explores whether solar sails are a viable technology for driving a satellite.
Doug Stetson, the program manager for LightSail, said that a solar sail is like “free propulsion,” since it does not require the weight, cost and complexity of a typical rocket based spacecraft.
“The wind in space is solar radiation pressure, it’s the faint pressure of sunlight,” Stetson said. “It builds up over a long period of time and allows us to reach very high speeds.”
Lightsail is based around Cal Poly’s CubeSat satellites, the small satellite standard created in collaboration with Stanford University, used by the university to give students hands on experience in space exploration and research. Stetson said LightSail chose to partner with Cal Poly because of the university’s experience with CubeSat.
Photos by Kyle McCarty/Mustang News.