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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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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...

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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