Last Tuesday, Bertrand Piccard, a 54-year-old Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist, completed a 19-hour flight from Madrid to Morocco in his solar-powered Solar Impulse. The transcontinental flight was intended to be a warm-up flight for a round-the-world tour in 2014.
The Solar Impulse is truly solar as it has 12,000 solar cells in the wings to turn four electrical motors. That also means that the Solar Impulse has a wingspan the size of a Boeing 747 but it weighs about the same as a family car. Moreover, the aircraft flies around 45 kilometers (28 miles) per hour at an altitude where oxygen and temperatures that can drop as low as minus 29 degrees Celsius (minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit) – meaning an oxygen mask is needed in order to breath.
Naturally, the Solar Impulse team has put together a few videos to show how their aircraft works and the following ones are worth noting: