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After a nine-month delay on the big island of Hawaii, the revolutionary solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 has resumed its mission to complete a flight around the world without a drop of fuel.
The plane’s circumglobal journey began in Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and was broken down into twelve legs that spanned anywhere from several hours to five days. Since its initial launch, it has touched down in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, and Japan. Due to damage sustained to its batteries during the trans-Pacific leg to Hawaii, officials grounded the aircraft in July 2015 and held it for repair at the Kalaeloa airport.
Solar Impulse 2 is co-piloted by doctor, psychiatrist, and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, and André Borschberg, an engineer and fighter pilot who founded the initiative. The two take turns completing legs in the single-seat aircraft. Despite the nine-month setback, they maintain an optimistic outlook regarding the future of their mission.
“As we experienced many times with [the first] Solar Impulse, obstacles often turn out to be opportunities for improvement,” Borschberg stated. “Ultimately, this time was used to recreate the strong mindset within the team to continue our adventure. It takes sometimes more time to build up the right spirit than to develop new technologies.”
The initial trip from Abu Dhabi to Hawaii nabbed the world record for the longest solar flight in the history of aviation. The Solar Impulse team hopes that the second phase of the journey will continue to raise awareness about the capabilities of sustainable energy sources.
“If governments had the courage to promote clean technologies on a massive scale, our society could simultaneously reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs, and stimulate sustainable growth,” Piccard said.
With the wingspan of a Boeing 747, the weight of a two-ton car, and a body lined with 17,000 individual solar cells, the plane itself is a paragon of innovative engineering.
Solar Impulse 2 took off at 4PM UTC yesterday to complete its Mission Flight from Hawaii to Mountain View, California. Visit the Solar Impulse website for live updates on the pilots’ progress or to watch the live feed from the plane’s cockpit.