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NanoSail-D has been out of contact for a week.

NASA’s solar sail is missing in action and now the space agency is questioning whether or not it was ever released. 

The NanoSail-D, an 8.5-pound satellite carrying the solar sail, was supposed to be ejected from the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satelliter (FASTSAT) on Monday, December 6. The FASTSAT launched November 19 from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska on a Minotaur 4 rocket. 

NASA had anticipated that three days after being deployed from the FASTSAT, the satellite would trigger a timer prompting an automatic command to unleash a folded-up 100 square foot polymer sail from the experimental spacecraft. However, the Nano-Sail-D now appears to be lost.  

On Friday, NASA posted an update indicating, "it is not clear" that the sail was ever deployed. 

"At the time of ejection, spacecraft telemetry data showed a positive ejection as reflected by confirmation of several of the planned on orbit ejection sequence events," a statement from the website read. "The FASTSAT spacecraft ejection system data was also indicative of an ejection event." 

NanoSail-D was mounted in a P-POD ejection apparatus inside FASTSAT, and while P-PODs are generally used to release CubeSat spacecraft from launch vehicles, NanoSail-D was set to become the first CubeSat to separate from a microsatellite. 

Spring-loaded guide booms were expected to eject from the device.  The sail was then supposed to expand five seconds later into a diamond shape.

Propelled by light from the sun, NanoSail-D was developed to stay in orbit around the Earth for up to three months.  After that, it would drop from orbit and burn up in the planet's atmosphere.

According to the statement on its website, NASA will continue to troubleshoot and attempt to make contact with NanoSail-D.  Updates can be found on the NanoSail-D dashboard and on Twitter. 

Japan’s solar sail mission, Ikaros, successfully reached Venus this summer and solar sail mission Akatsuki attempted to orbit Venus early this month.

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By corduroygt on 12/13/2010 2:02:06 PM , Rating: -1
What happened to the brilliant NASA of the 60s and 70s?

RE: Nanofail
By CheesePoofs on 12/13/2010 2:25:31 PM , Rating: 5
Nothing .. they too lost spacecraft.

RE: Nanofail
By theapparition on 12/13/2010 4:02:36 PM , Rating: 4
Americans lost thier way, not NASA.

NASA had countless setbacks, some even at the cost of human life, but always kept moving forward.

Part of that was the drive of exploration, part politics, and part because the American people loved the innovation. Because of these things, money poured in.

Then public interest dried up, politics no longer mattered, and more importatnly, people cared more about re-runs of MASH than NASA. Plus new regulations such as OSHA and EPA issues drove cost. Gone was the "let's light this candle and see what happens mentality", replaced by the "OMG, what happens if something goes wrong, how can we get sued". Liability costs start to skyrocket, prototypes can't get built easily, and funding dries up. Pefect storm of ineffectiveness that renders NASA a shell of what it used to be. Now just another beurocratic government organization that builds stacks of paper, rather than rockets.

RE: Nanofail
By Chaser on 12/13/2010 4:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
cared more about re-runs of MASH than NASA
People had a wondrous device then, the radio and the color TV but then early space exploration was the innovative, curiosity inspiring thing that captured the hearts of the country. But even then people had other more productive priorities in daily lives.

Today inspirations are much easier to achieve short term gratification. It's teen girls texting on their iPhones. Entitlement funded families watching Dancing with the Stars or Keeping up with the Kardashians on their big screen plasmas.

RE: Nanofail
By JediJeb on 12/13/2010 4:56:37 PM , Rating: 2
The worst thing now is that the majority of the major network programming puts more emphasis on brainless entertainment than inspiring people to achieve better for themselves. Sure many older TV shows didn't teach advanced science, but neither did they appear to award lazy behavior and stupidity. Even shows like Gunsmoke and Andy Griffith put forth the ideas that those who are lazy are going to fail and those who put forth an effort to make themselves better will succeed, now you have shows that portray the hard working person as the dolt and the lazy bum as the hero.

No wonder our society now pushes things like the space program off as a fools errand and promotes shows like JackAss as something to be looked up to.

RE: Nanofail
By delphinus100 on 12/13/2010 6:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
And attention spans are, if anything, shorter today, than in the late 60's. Those who want to get back to the Moon, pretty much at all costs (cough *Constellation* cough) often tout 'inspiration' as a major reason. But public interest began to wane in Apollo after just the first two Lunar landings (were it not for the 'problem,' there would've been little fanfare for Apollo 13, but the kind of survival drama that turned into, is not the kind of attention you want...)

I don't care if it's the Moon or Mars, people will get bored quickly this time, too. We can't hang or hat on that kind of public support. (And to be fair, how long can you expect excitement? Crowds don't gather in Paris when a plane flies non-stop across the Atlantic today, either...what's important now is that it does happen every day)

The 'inspired' tend to already be space enthusiasts, and they'll get just as much from seeing affordable, but ongoing, gradually expanding human space activity that they stand a reasonable chance to be part of (just as with aviation and maritime professions today), rather than a massive, excessively goal-and-time oriented project to get a few people (and you stand a better chance of getting into professional sports, than to be one of them) to some celestial body a few times, in a way that's too expensive to maintain...

RE: Nanofail
By JediJeb on 12/13/2010 4:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
This is why the next great achievements will probably come from the private sector. Groups like SpaceX are really starting to push into what was once a government only business.

If only we could get to the point envisioned by Robert Heinlein in Rocket Ship Galileo. where there are even amateur rocketry enthusiast with the ability to reach the moon an beyond.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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