Solar Impulse Back In Europe! | Vol. 3 / No. 34.4

Solar Impulse 2 over Seville, Spain, June 23th 2016 | Photo: Solar Impulse

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Of course I could be writing about the gun control sit-in being run by the Democrats in the House, or about the Brexit vote taking place in the UK today, but since those stories are being covered well enough by every other person on the planet, I figured I’d go for something else.

Today, the Solar Impulse 2 completed the last major ocean-crossing leg of its round the world trip, taking off from New York and landing in Seville, Spain, after a flight lasting 71 hours and 8 minutes, covering a total distance of 4203 miles. Betrand Piccard was at the helm for the Atlantic crossing, no doubt because his co-pilot, André Borschberg, flew the longest leg over the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii last year.

The around-the-world solar-powered trip began last year in Abu Dhabi on March 9. The original plan had been to complete the trip in one year, but after landing in Hawaii last June it was determined that the batteries would need repairs, and that pushed the rest of the trip into 2016. But now safely in Europe there seems little doubt that the final leg of their journey — a 3600 mile return to Abu Dhabi — is well within reach.

The long legs of the flight are the most taxing — not on the plane so much as on the pilots, who have to occupy the small cockpit for dozens of hours at a time. During the days, the plane soaks up energy from the sun with solar panel on its truly massive wingspan (it’s wider than a 747), and stores excess in its batteries to last through the night. The final trip back to Abu Dhabi could be completed in one go, but chances are that they’ll take it more conservatively over a couple of shifts. The team is reportedly planning those flights now.

So congratulations to the Solar Impulse team on all the progress they’ve made. We’re eagerly awaiting the completion of their record-breaking trip.

The BBC has more details on today’s news, and of course you can find out all about the Solar Impulse team’s endeavours over at their website.

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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