The NASDAQ opening bell this morning was rung by Solar Impulse pilots and co-founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg who completed the first transcontinental flight powered solely by solar energy late Saturday evening, landing at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Solar Impulse took off from the San Francisco area on May 3rd. Pilots Piccard and Borschberg flew alternating legs of the trip, stopping in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C. They set a new record for the longest distance for a solar-powered flight by flying 958 miles (1,541 kilometers) non-stop between Pheonix and Dallas.
The 3511 miles of the trip took 105 hours 41 minutes to complete. The plane has a 63 meter wingspan and weighs only 3500 lbs. (1600 kg). It is powered by nearly 12,000 silicon solar cells, and its propellers charge 800 lbs. of lithium-ion batteries to enable night flying. The Solar Impulse can soar up to 30,000 feet; its maximum speed is 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour). Since it is not powered by fuel, it makes no noise, affording a peaceful journey to the pilots who often listened to music as they travelled across the country.
At their website, the Solar Impulse team states that the “Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but messages…Our primary objective was to show that today’s technological innovations can achieve incredible things like flying day and night powered only by solar energy without using any fuel, nor producing emissions.”
The next goal for the Solar Impulse is to fly around the world in 2015. Let’s wish them the best as they continue to demonstrate the power of private enterprise in advancing technology.