The pioneering Swiss project to build an airplane that operates entirely on sunlight began an epic leg of the journey this morning. Pilot Bertrand Piccard took off at 6:12 a.m. PST from Moffett Airfield near San Francisco. He is expected to land in Phoenix sometime after midnight.
The Solar Impulse aircraft’s wingspan is as long as a Boeing 747 but it weighs only about 3,500 lbs., about the same as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Four 10-horsepower electric engines, which draw the energy they need from a skin of high-efficiency solar cells covering the wing and stabilizer dorsal surfaces, power it. Read our stories about the project to get some background.
The journey will continue with four other legs: Phoenix-Dallas-St. Louis- Washington, D.C.-New York City. It is expected to conclude in July.
Check out this live feed from Solar Impulse, or go to the mission website to see the full dashboard.