Russian space geeks hitch their wagon to a star

Have an extra $7 you can’t figure out what to do with? You could help launch the first manmade star.

That’s the smallest Kickstarter donation level for Mayak, a giant reflector some renegade Russian scientists hope to put into orbit this summer, making it the brightest object in the night sky.

Um, Kickstarter? Yes. These are private, nongovernment scientists who have spent two years designing, building and stratosphere-testing the device, which Roscosmos, the Russian NASA, has agreed to haul into space in August as part of a scheduled Soyuz launch.

Once in orbit, and if all goes as planned, Mayak will unfold a 65-square-foot pyramid of incredibly thin reflective material – one 20th the thickness of a human hair – and begin bouncing additional sunlight to Earth.

(Not sure how that fits into the whole global warming thing, but it sounds cool.)

There are also experiments on board, of course, including a rocket system the Russian team hopes can be used to drag space junk into lower orbits, where it will burn up on the edge of the atmosphere.

But while Mayak tidies up space, the rest of us get to wish upon a new star.

The Mayak team is looking for a modest $54,000. Kickstarter levels go from the aforementioned $7 (a website mention) to $8,999, which includes a visit to the Baikonur Spaceport to watch the Mayak launch. All sponsors get access to the Mayak app, which alerts users when the craft is directly overhead.