Bill Nye goes to Kickstarter to fund Sagan's solar-powered spacecraft

The LightSail is blasting off to space (along with the X37B drone) for a test flight on May 20th, but the project still needs a lot more money for its first major mission in 2016. To be precise, Bill Nye and The Planetary Society still need a hefty $1.2 million, part of which they're now trying to raise via Kickstarter. The team set a more realistic $200,000 goal, but they do have stretch goals up until $1 million, which will cover the construction, testing and deployment of the final version, as well as LightSail's operations in space for a few months. Obviously, you can't get one of solar-powered spacecraft as a reward for backing the project, so you'll have to make do with posters, jackets and signed paraphernalia.

LightSail was originally conceptualized by Carl Sagan as a "solar sailer," a spacecraft that uses the sun's radiation for propulsion. The Planetary Society, a non-profit org headed by Bill Nye, is attempting to make its own version -- the current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit (at an altitude of 447 miles) aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016.

[Image credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society]