Bill Nye just tweeted out LightSail’s first selfie, a seminal moment in any spacecraft’s life. The Planetary Society craft’s deployment motor whirred to life on Sunday, opening the sail, which will catch light and help test solar-powered space flight.
LightSail has seen some major problems, from a needing cosmic restart to battery problems blacking out communications. But now the mission is considered a success, having deployed its sail in low-Earth orbit, a key step toward solar-powered space flight.
Engineers are downloading a second image from the other side of the spacecraft and hope it will show similar success. Before it reenters the atmosphere, engineers plan to “walk out” the sail’s extenders to pull the sail tight. The next stage, due to start in 2016, will be to test a sail at a higher orbit and use the power gathered for propulsion.