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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THE GLOBAL ADVENTURE OF SOLAR IMPULSE 2: The Moment of Truth


I have recently been featuring global adventures, and a month ago reported on the around the world odyssey of the Solar Impulse 2, which left Abu Dhabi on March 9.


So far, the longest leg from Mandalay to Chongqing took 20.5 hours.  Remember, the plane is powered only by photovoltaic cells, which needs the Sun.

Well, the plane is now in Nanjing, and was supposed to leave China on a 5-day flight  to Kalaeloa, Hawaii (formerly known as Barbers Point) last week.  However, weather conditions were not favorable, so yesterday was supposed to be it.  But, another cancellation.   As of this moment, the window of opportunity says Saturday.  This can go on forever, so let me today at least alert you to the imminent historic upcoming flight of the Solar Impulse 2, from Nanjing, China on leg #7 for a monumental 120 straight hours to Hawaii, the Moment of Truth.

The Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, but only weighs as much as a Ford Fiesta sedan:


The plane has an array of 17,248 solar panels and uses lithium ion batteries (about a quarter the total weight) to store the energy of the Sun to use at night.  The maximum speed is 88 MPH.  The strategy will be to climb as high as 5.28 miles during the day, and descend to less than a mile by dawn.  Can you imagine the stress involved, as this has not been done before, and there are no fail-safe airports in the flight plan.  There is room only for one pilot, Bertrand Piccard (left) or Andre Borschberg, who will take on that flight to Hawaii:

The 62-year-old Mr Borschberg, who trained as a fighter pilot in the Swiss air force, will face extreme temperatures in the unpressurised and unheated 3.8-cubic-metre cockpit.

Further:


The plane’s autopilot function allows for no more than 20 minutes of rest at a time, pushing the limits of human endurance as well as the boundaries of science.

Borschberg was the first to complete a 24-hour solar powered flight and set records for longest manned and greatest height.   Piccard, a Swiss psychiatrist, has already circumvented the globe on a ballon.  His grandfather, Auguste, was also a famous balloonist, whiile his father, Jacques (left), went the other way, being the first to reach the deepest part of the ocean in the Mariana Trench.


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Typhoon Dolphin is now up to 105 MPH, and has a predicted track right over Guam.  There will be further strengthening into a Category 4, with the eye now projected to head towards Japan.  "Normally," though, at this time of year, these storms weaken with the cooler waters around Japan.


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