Solar plane journey halted

The solar plane set to circumnavigate the globe has aborted the “Earhart leg” of the trip.

You may have read or heard about the solar plane, Solar Impulse 2, currently being piloted around the world by Andre Borschberg and his partner in the venture, Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard. The plane is powered by 17,000 photovoltaic cells (solar panels charging four batteries) and is made from carbon fiber. This makes its very light, and vulnerable to high winds; it is also necessary to have enough sunny days on a leg of the journey to keep the plane powered.

On the most recent leg, Borschberg planned to follow a route similar to that of the one famed pilot Amelia Earheart took over 70 years ago, which led to her untimely death. He was forced to turn around 36 hours into the flight (on Monday 1 June), however, as high winds and cloudy skies threatened the success of the 6-day flight from Nanjing, China to Hawaii. The pilots hope to have crossed the Pacific before the monsoon season approaches, which would make the journey impossible.

Solar power is an field of constant innovation, and with new technology promising huge electric output for smaller and smaller cells, one day we could see more solar powered transport.

Follow the journey on the Solar Impulse website.

Image credit: Solar Impulse, via plus.google.com

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