Solar plane conquers the night during 26-hour test flight

The big question with the Solar Impulse, an aircraft designed to fly wholly using solar power, is whether or not it'd be able to continue to operate at night. Well, turns out it can, as the Solar Impulse landed after successfully completing a 26-hour test flight.

The plane itself is something of an oddity, so don't expect it to replace the jets you see in the sky every day just yet. It's lengthy 207-foot wingspan flops around a bit so helpers had to hurry out as it landed, making sure that the wings didn't scrape the ground. It also only seats one, and needs pretty much the rest of its body for the 12,000 solar cells that allowed it to get through the night.

It wasn't a cakewalk for test pilot Andre Borschberg, either. He was stuck in the craft for 26 long hours in a cockpit the size of a bathtub, and had to put up with freezing temperatures during the night.

Still, it's an important milestone for the Solar Impulse. What's next is even more ambitious: flying around the entire world, showing that the craft can recharge during the day and last all night.

Solar passenger planes may not be landing at airports any time soon, but, for the crew of the Solar Impulse — and for the rest of us — it's an impressive display of how far you can stretch today's greener technologies.

Via PhysOrg

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