Solar Impulse Becomes First Sun Powered Aircraft to Fly Through the Night

On Friday, the Solar Impulse became the first aircraft of it's kind to complete a flight of more than 24 hours powered by renewably generated energy alone.  In addition to being the first solar powered aircraft flown after dusk, it was also the longest and highest flight in the history of solar aviation.  The flight lasted for a total for 26 hours and 9 minutes, reaching a maximum height of nearly 28,000 ft.

Pilot André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project remarked, “I have just flown more than 26 hours without using a drop of fuel and without causing any pollution!"  The single seater plane, with a wingspan of an Airbus A340 (approx 207. ft), weighing just over 3500 lbs (about the size of a small car), is powered by four electric motors and propellers.  Borschberg's success proved (at least theoretically) that a solar powered aircraft could stay aloft for more than 24 hours on batteries that charged during the day.  While flying at night, the airplane used only the energy stored by the nearly 12,000 solar cells built into it's lightweight carbon-fiber wings.

The achievement has no doubt propelled renewable energy aviation projects globally.  For Borschberg and his Swiss partner Betrand Piccard, best known for circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon in 1999, it is another step forward for the Solar Impulse project team.

At this stage and after seven years of testing and research, they have taken one step closer to developing an aircraft that can achieve perpetual flight.  This plane, the Solar Impulse HB - SIA, is a prototype for what Borschberg and partner Betrand Piccard hope will be the first solar powered aircraft to successfully circle the globe, the Solar Impulse HB - SIB.  They will begin construction on the next airplane in 2011 with plans to make their first solar powered trip around the globe in 2012.

Learn more about the Solar Impulse project.
[Originally posted to SustainableLifeMedia.com July 14, 2010]


On HAITI: Dear Journalists, Looting Doesn't Exist in a DISASTER Area

Every other day, when I peek in at Haiti, my heart starts beating fast… I click through pictures, and I read “nearly 200,000 dead.” And I try to imagine: What would Oakland (where I live now), or Flushing, NY (where I grew up), look like if there were upwards of 200,000 dead people lying in the streets? 

I close the screen.

I am once again overwhelmed by that bewildering feeling that I had a little more than four years ago, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. My heart broke then, while I, along with the rest of the world, watched as thousands lost their lives in the aftermath. Ironically, I was on the Island of Hispaniola at the time, though not in Haiti, but rather in the east, on a family vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. 

I am not naïve. So I do not expect for any pre-existing bias held previously toward the nation of Haiti to have magically disappeared because disaster struck. Thanks to the same journalists who report the news, while simultaneously making claims of objectivity, we are reminded, time and again that there are still so many of them (and if we are honest, there are still so many of us), who are blinded by variable levels of xenophobia and racism.
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