Thursday, May 11, 2017

Around the World on Sun Power | Origins: The Journey of Humankind

6:53 PM

By: Amazing Earth On: 6:53 PM  In:  

Can a Plane Fly Around the World on Solar Power Alone?
With a wingspan greater than a 747, but weighing less than most cars, the Solar Impulse 2 will attempt to circumnavigate the planet.
So it seems more than a little crazy to hear that that flight and the other trial runs later this year are leading up to what’s seen as the ultimate test: a planned trip around the world beginning next March.

You could make it around the world in fewer than 80 days in this plane, if you flew non-stop. The latest estimate is that it can be done in 25 solid days and nights—or roughly 500 hours—of flying. But the trip is going to be broken into five or six stages over several months, primarily for the benefit of the two pilots who will take turns at the controls.

Since there’s room for only one person in the plane, this means some very long stretches of time in the cockpit—as long as five whole days when the plane crosses the Pacific Ocean. To accommodate the pilot’s basic needs, the seat both converts into a recliner and serves as a toilet. The pilot will essentially live in a space not much bigger than the inside of a mini-Cooper, though the seat does expand enough for him to do physical exercises. The cockpit is not pressurized, nor does it have heat, but it is lined with high-density thermal insulation. And just in case, there’s a parachute and life raft packed into the back of the seat.

The two men who will fly the Solar Impulse 2, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, know full well what they’re getting themselves into. They've been developing the technology for 12 years, and had a taste of it last year when they flew the plane’s smaller predecessor, Solar Impulse 1, in a series of hops across the U.S.

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