Bill Nye's solar particle-powered spacecraft, LightSail, has lost communication with Earth. The spacecraft launched a week ago, but a software glitch has removed the craft's ability to send data back to Earth. So far, efforts to remotely reboot the craft's computer have failed. The only solution that scientists can think of right now is to push the manual reset button — an idea that isn't exactly realistic.
"There’s nobody in outer space to push that reset button," Bill Nye told The Planetary Society, the non-profit behind the LightSail project.
A manual reboot isn't exactly feasible
LightSail is made up of a small satellite with a 344-square-foot solar sail attached. It launched on May 20th, carrying many researchers' dreams of solar propulsion with it. It's an ambitious project; the scientists behind it want to demonstrate that solar propulsion can help spaceships get around without having to carry boosters or fuel reserves. But a problem with an onboard data file has crashed LightSail's avionics system, removing its ability to communicate with Earth, reports The Washington Post. This essentially means that LightSail's computer is completely frozen.
There is some hope left, however. If LightSail collides with stray charged particles, it's possible that the "hit" could provoke a reboot. These types of "natural reboots" aren't uncommon, according to The Planetary Society, so it's still a possibility. And in its current form, LightSail can remain in orbit for about six months. Unfortunately, while we wait for charged particles to hit the spacecraft, we're missing out on valuable data.