This Solar-Powered Plane Is Flying around the World

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The going may be slower than a jumbo jet, but we’re getting closer to environmentally-powered airplanes.

The Solar Impulse 2 is nearing the end of its around-the-world voyage, which is more than a year in the making. Last week, the solar-powered plane landed in Mountain View, Calif. after a two-and-a-half day flight across the Pacific Ocean. It’s currently making its way across the U.S. and will take off from Phoenix on May 6.

With a wingspan of a Boeing 747, this solar aircraft weighs just about as much as an
SUV. The flight resumed a journey that was hindered on the island of Oahu for almost 10 months.

Helmed by Swiss explorer and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, the Solar Impulse 2 travels at the speed of a car. Piccard is attempting to promote clean technologies along with his partner André Borschberg. “It’s a new era. It’s not science fiction. It’s today,” Piccard told CNN after his successful flight. “It exists and clean technologies can do the impossible.”

Flying over the Golden Gate Bridge into the San Fransisco Bay marked a fleeting
accomplishment since the project has given the team many problems and setbacks.
There was a “very stable weather window,” according to Alexandra Gindroz, the Solar Impulse spokeswoman. The weather, especially the sun, is imperative to the plane’s flight since it decides when the plane can execute the journey—even with experts and dozens of engineers monitoring every move.

The Solar Impulse 2 started its journey in March 2015 and was originally supposed
to touch down in Abu Dhabi by the end of last summer. Weather delays in China slowed
the operation and ended up with an unforeseen detour to Japan, where it was damaged
by rough weather on the tarmac.

More than 100 members of their team and pilots pushed forward to repair the aircraft
and prepare it for its crossing of the Pacific to Hawaii, or what the team members called,
“the moment of truth.”

Last summer the Solar Impulse 2 set a new solo flying record, flown by Borsheberg, flying
five days and five nights from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii without any fuel.

Keep up with the Solar Impulse 2’s journey via Twitter or their Flash newsletter.

Lauren Spiler is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Georgia, but most call her Spiler.

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