And they’re off! This morning (March 9) Solar Impulse took off on the first leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the earth in an airplane powered only by the sun.
"We are very ambitious in our goal, but modest given the magnitude of the challenge. This is an attempt, and only time will tell if we can overcome the numerous weather, technical, human and administrative issues,” said Co-Founders and Copilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borsch-berg, in a release before launching.
The plane, piloted by Borschberg, took off from Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport for its first leg. It successfully landed 250 miles away at Muscat International Airport in the Sultanate of Oman. Upon landing Borschberg and crew were greeted by Prince Albert II of Monaco, a major sponsor, and others.
Next, under the guidance of Piccard, the plane will cross the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad (India). These are the final baby steps for the epic adventure, which has been in the works for over a decade. The current plane’s predecessor, Si1, took its first flight in 2009. The current plane, Si2, took its maiden voyage last year.
The voyage will include a five-day flight over the Pacific Ocean, which the solar-powered plane will be able to accomplish since it requires no fuel other than the sun.
The 35,000 kilometer journey is anticipated to take five months, however the actual flight time is expected to take 25 days in the prop plane, which has a top speed of 140 kilometers an hour and cruises at about 90 kilometers an hour in the day. The project will have 12 scheduled stops across the globe to organize public events for governments, schools and universities.
On the tarmac ahead of the take-off, His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, wished pilots Piccard and Borschberg a safe and successful journey.
"This journey is a moment of national pride for the United Arab Emirates, as Abu Dhabi helped the mission team prepare for success,” said H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar at the launch. “Together, we inspired thousands of students and professionals across the country, and I'm confident that such community engagement initiatives will be replicated across the globe, capturing the hearts and imaginations of the world and reaching our collective goal of a cleaner future.”Tweet