Image of the Day: Bill Nye's LightSail space craft with solar sail unfurled

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Jul 4, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT (Updated)

One of the most intriguing space exploration projects in recent memory is currently flying around the Earth, and here’s a look at the LightSail solar sail craft in action.

The project, which aims to be a proving ground for solar sail technology (which basically uses solar energy beams to power the craft), blasted off a few weeks ago and lost contact with Earth for a while. Luckily, a reset worked, and the craft came back online. It was that development that finally got us to the moment of truth — the deployment of the solar sails.

The craft’s orbit is currently decaying, meaning it probably won’t have too much time left until it's destroyed, but officials with the Planetary Society believe they can still pull a ton of useful data from the deployment, which will be put toward improving the next solar sail test mission. Initial assessments indicate the 344-square-foot sail may not have fully extended, but regardless, getting it open is a very big deal.

Check out the LightSail in action below, thanks to a photo from Planetary Society head Bill Nye (The Science Guy). Welcome to the future, folks.

(Via Bill Nye)