As readers of my earlier posts already know, I have a slight fixation with space 🙂 so you can imagine my excitement when I heard about NASA’s new satellite, NanoSail-D, and that for a couple of months, weather permitting, we can catch a glimpse of it in our night skies as it undergoes testing.
So what is NanoSail-D? It is the first ever solar sail (10m x 10m!) to orbit the Earth. Unlike the ISS, it will be more difficult for us to see because it won’t be visible when it’s above us, only when it’s on the horizon – so you may only have a few seconds to view what looks like a bright star rise over the horizon and disappear. To find out if it is visible from your location, you can look on the website http://www.heavens-above.com/ which is also the site I use tolocate the passes of the ISS.
There are hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris flying around in our solar system, all created by humans, but no longer serving any useful purpose. Spent rocket stages, defunct satellites, paint flakes and solid rocket fuel slag – all of which are a potential collision risk for spacecraft. NanoSail-D will be testing the potential of the solar sail technology to reduce such space junk and debris by slowing satellites down and stopping them at the end of their life.
You can follow the progress of the mission on NASA’s Nano-Sail website and on Twitter but the best thing you can do is find out when it is visible in your location and go out and view it for yourself!