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Solar Impulse 2 Completes Trans-Pacific Flight, Lands in Silicon Valley

Apr 25, 2016 05:18 AM EDT
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Solar Impulse 2, an experimental plane running on solar power, finally landed in Silicon Valley, completing a trans-Pacific flight without the need for fuel.

After a two-and-a-half day flight over the Pacific Ocean, pilot Bertrand Piccard successfully touched down in Mountain View, south of San Francisco, California, after flying solo for 62 hours.

A Swiss explorer and psychiatrist, Piccard said the journey is a symbol of a new era, as per a CNN report.

His touchdown came hours after flying over the famous Golden Gate Bridge, where Piccard declared that he is officially in America.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a project that began in 2002. With pioneers Piccard and Andre Borschberg, his co-pilot, they have been taking turns flying the solar plane to promote clean technologies and renewable energy.

The project is estimated to cost $100 million, according to Al Jazeera.

The solar plane's wings are wider than a Boeing 747, but the plane itself is only as light as a car, weighing only 2.3 tonnes. It has 17,000 solar cells that provide power to its propellers and charge its batteries. At night, it runs on stored energy.

This recent journey, a flight from Hawaii to California, is the ninth leg of its adventures around the world. The first take off of Solar Impulse 2 was piloted by Borschberg at Abu Dhabi, touching down in Oman in March. Its previous stops included Myanmar, China and Japan.

The next step for the 35,000-kilometer journey is from California to New York, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to head to Europe or Northern Africa.

The Pacific crossing was a risky move since there would be no emergency landing sites should something unexpected happen. Fortunately, Piccard and Solar Impulse 2 made it through and even gave the viewing public stunning shots of its travel through its social media accounts.

The impact of this project can be massive. According to BBC, it is estimated that by 2050, the dominant source of electricity globally would be solar power. Shifting as soon as we can to renewable energies and clean technologies is all the more necessary to combat the adverse impact of climate change.

Still, the Solar Impulse 2 cannot be marketed commercially yet. Aside from being costly, it moves pretty slow, with its ideal flight speed at about 28 miles per hour.

But the plane's successes can resonate changes in today's use of technologies.

"This airplane was not built to carry passengers, but to carry a message," said Piccard on the project website. "Flying around the world with no fuel demonstrates that we can reach incredible goals with clean and energy efficient technologies."

 

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