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Around World Attempt in Solar Plane!

March 11th, 2015

Solar Impulse 2 Photo credit: SolarImpulse.com

Two pilots are attempting to be the first to fly around the world in a plane that’s powered entirely by the sun!

The solar-powered plane, called Solar Impulse 2, has already made two of its flights in its 12-stop journey around the world.

The trip started on March 9th in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The entire trip is expected to take approximately five months, until around July or early August. There are about 20-25 days of total flying time, the remaining time is to rest or raise awareness for using clean energy (energy that doesn’t pollute).

The plane’s two pilots are Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, both from Switzerland. They take turns flying the plane so there’s only one of them in the plane at a time.

From Abu Dhabi they landed in Muscat, Oman and then continued on to Ahmedabad in India, where they landed yesterday (March 10).

After Ahmedabad their itinerary says they will go to Varanasi, India, on to Mandalay, Myanmar, then to Chongqing and Nanjing, China. You can follow along at www.SolarImpulse.com .

Image courtesy: www.SolarImpulse.com

The first big test will come after China when one of the pilots will spend 5 days crossing the Pacific Ocean, landing in Hawaii and then on to Phoenix, Arizona, somewhere in the Midwest, and New York City (at JFK airport).

Then it’s across the Atlantic Ocean, another major challenge. They’ll land in either Southern Europe or North Africa … and finally back to where they started in Abu Dhabi.

The Plane

The plane itself is pretty incredible as you can see in the video below:

Its wings are as long as Boeing 747’s, but it weighs only as much as a regular car (about 3,500 pounds). They need to keep it light in order to use as little energy as possible.

Solar Impulse 2’s top speed is reportedly just over 40 miles per hour, so it’s not a fast plane. A passenger plane goes about 500 miles per hour.

It has 17,000 solar cells on top of the wings and body of the plane. And it can flight at night because the plane is able to store the solar energy it collects from the sun during the day into batteries.

But it’s not for the claustrophobic (people who don’t like tight spaces). The cockpit is tiny!

Photo courtesy Solar Impulse

They fly the plane from it, eat, sleep (for only 20 minutes at a time because there’s only one of them in the plane at a time), exercise … and it doubles as the bathroom as well (don’t ask).

Andre Borschberg, Bertrand Piccard, and their team have been preparing for this flight for about a decade. The meteorologist on their team alone has been studying the weather for 9 years to figure out how to make this around the world trip possible!

Solar Impulse 2 pilots Bertrand Piccard (top), Andre Borschberg (lower).

Solar Impulse already has a number of world records, but Mr. Piccard also has the record for being the first to circumnavigate (go around) the globe in a balloon. And it runs in his family. His father was the first to reach the deepest part of the world in a submarine, the Mariana Trench . And his grandfather was the first person to see the curvature of the earth from the stratosphere with his own eyes.

By completing the first ever solar-powered flight around the world and showing the extraordinary achievement possible using energy that doesn’t pollute the earth … their hope is that others will get on board, so to speak, and follow their lead.

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