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  (Source: associated press)

  (Source: associated press)
The Solar Impulse is relying on sun power as it rides around the clock and attempts night flight.

The Solar Impulse, an experimental solar plane, took off on a historic ride around the world early today from Geneva, Switzerland.   Supporters hope that this flight will prove the value of solar energy.

According to team co-founder Bertrand Piccard, a record-breaking balloonist who's father and grandfather also accomplished  pioneering airborne and submarine feats, the prototype has been designed to test and promote new energy-efficient technologies.  

"The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel," Piccard said. "This flight is crucial for the credibility of the project."

Ten test flights have been completed since the project began seven months ago. The prototype aircraft is a single-seater shaped like a giant dragonfly.  It has 12,000 solar panels spread across its 207 foot (63 meter) wingspan.   The aircraft is powered by four small electric motors and will depend on the sun to charge its batteries. 

The theory is that the aircraft will store enough energy during the day to last through the night.  Pilot Andre Borschberg, a former flight jet pilot, will attempt to stay alert during the flight with the help of a ground control team that is monitoring the aircraft on the teams website

Borschberg,  57, is wearing a parachute just in case he runs into trouble in the air.



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RE: A neat toy
By niva on 7/8/2010 1:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
The technology is not in it's infancy, nor is it a new idea about running using solar power and charging batteries while in insolation and discharging batteries during the dark. The international space station runs on the same concept, except day/night cycles are much shorter than this aircraft would experience. For the ISS night is typically <40 minutes while this airplane will experience night as many hours.

The application is interesting, I agree with the above poster that at this stage non-man vehicles are much more practical. I do hope they make it though, it's a marker someone has to cross eventually.


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