Geeking Science: Solar Sailing Technology Continues to Mature

After over three years, the one-year mission of the LightSail is complete. November 17 ends the experiment to prove Solar Sailing is a viable technology for space exploration. It’s not sexy-fast, but the ability to explore is now within the pocket book of communities and not just governments trying to one-up each other.

I and 50,000 people like me made this happen. We crowdfunded both the original LightSail (which didn’t make it to space) and the second LightSail.

Even better, another Solar Sail project launched into space before our lovely lightsail deorbited. The Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout is now piggybacking the Artemis I launch for a moon deployment. Now that the concept of Solar Sailing is a PROVEN technology, NASA is using it to test affordability. Space exploration has been limited by the pocketbook; Solar Sailing is providing a blue-light special.

NEA Scout will demonstrate the ability to hitch a ride to one destination and then use a solar sail to fly somewhere else. The small spacecraft will initially ride to the Moon before using a solar sail to leave for a near-Earth asteroid. (NEA Scout, 2022)


Sadly, the NEA Scout did not respond to initial communications. (Bartels, 2022) Blue-light specials mean a cut-back on the redundancy, and a higher chance of failure. It’s a tradeoff – the “do-it-cheaper” concept is cut the price by to a twentieth, knowing the failures will triple – with the hope of still a savings at nearly by having seven times the missions being successful.

In the case of Artemis I, seven of the ten CubeStats deployed without issue. The NEA Scout is one of three with a problem status. (Messier, 2022)
Seven out of ten isn’t bad. I wish the solar sail made the random statistical cut. Another time.

This is now, This is our future. We can reach the stars.


Betts, Bruce. “LightSail 2 is about to burn up”. The Planetary Society. November 14, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Bartels, Meghan. “NASA’s Artemis 1 launched a solar sail cubesat to an asteroid. It may be in trouble.” November 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Davis, Jason. “LightSail 2 completes mission with atmospheric reentry.” The Planetary Society. November 17, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Messier, Doug. “Status Report on Artemis I Secondary CubeStat Payloads.” Parabolic Arc. November 17, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022 (link no longer works 4/26/2024).

“NEA Scout”. NASA. – Last viewed – 12/5/2022. (link no longer works 10/16/2023)

“NEA Scout, NASA’s solar sail mission to an asteroid”. The Planetary Society. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

The Planetary Society. “#ThankYouLightSail”. YouTube. – Last viewed 12/5/2022. (see above video)