For the First Time Ever, a Solar-Powered Plane Flew All the Way Around the Earth

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This solar-powered airplane by Solar Impulse has just completed its trip all the way around our lovely planet, which is quite an impressive feat! The only catch? It took the airplane a year and four months to make the journey. So, uh, not exactly the quickest way to travel … but certainly fuel efficient.

Blastr reports that the plane tops out at 90 mph. That isn’t exactly an impressive speed compared to how fast airplanes usually go, which is about 546–575 mph once they reach cruising altitude. However, as stated, the plane didn’t use any fuel at all, so that’s what made this trip so impressive.

Unfortunately, this airplane can only travel during daylight hours and sunny skies, so part of the trip’s delay was due to a few storms over the Pacific that blocked out sunlight. Plus, the plane’s batteries failed at one point, causing more delays. So there were a few hiccups, and obviously the plane travels so slowly that it really can’t be considered a viable form of transportation at this point.

Why is this even exciting, then? Well, airlines have been financially struggling for a long time now, and although fuel prices aren’t the only reason for that, it’s one of several reasons. Using alternative forms of energy for flying airplanes would help shake up the airline industry and decrease humanity’s reliance on oil, which can only be a good thing for the future of our planet.

(via Blastr, image via Solar Impulse/Twitter)

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Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).