Tuesday, January 25, 2011

After being inexplicably stuck inside the spacecraft that brought it into orbit, NASA's NanoSail D satellite has now extricated itself somehow and successfully unfurled its 10 square meter sail. For the first time, this small spacecraft has now sailed around the Earth at 650 kilometers above the Earth's surface.

Scientists now have to figure out why it got stuck in the first place, and how it seemingly got unstuck on its own. It is believed that the NanoSail D will orbit the Earth for another 120 days or so before the sail catches enough friction with the very upper levels of our atmosphere to pull in back out of orbit. At that point, it will burn up meteor style, and the first sailing satellite mission will come to a close.

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