Solar Impulse 2 is an aircraft on a mission — to circumnavigate the globe using nothing but the power of the sun. The journey is being undertaken in multiple legs, and it kicked off several months ago. The plane was to make the most daring part of the trip over the weekend, but the flight from China to Hawaii was aborted mid-way through due to inclement weather.
The flight from Nanjing China to Hawaii would have shattered the record for longest single solar-powered flight at over 5,000 miles. Solar Impulse is capable of speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, but the pilots (there are two who trade off each leg) keep it to a more modest 60 mph in order to improve efficiency. It might not move very fast, but it has a wingspan greater than a Boeing 747 to generate sufficient lift.
This isn’t the end of the line for Solar Impulse 2, of course. The team is watching for another takeoff window that will allow the craft to reach Hawaii. They already waited several weeks for the last launch that didn’t work out, so it might be a while before the perfect forecast prompts a second try. After the plane successfully lands in Hawaii, it has another leg to fly that’s almost as long. The trip from Hawaii to Phoenix, New Mexico will take four days and is almost 3,000 miles.
The total journey will be over 20,000 miles when Solar Impulse 2 eventually reaches its destination in the United Arab Emirates, where the trip started several months ago. The team hopes to raise awareness of how far solar power has come with Solar Impulse 2. As long as it can complete the trip without more unscheduled stops, it might make a good case.