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Sun-Powered 'Solar Impulse' Plane Survives the Night Sky

The Solar Impulse is one of the most ambitious projects we've ever seen. The ultimate goal is to fly a solar-powered plane around the world, relying for power solely on the rays of the sun. That might still be a ways off, but the Impulse took to the sky Wednesday morning with an intermediary goal: to survive 24 hours aloft in the night sky (read: often with no sun) without plummeting to the ground.

This morning, 26 hours after it first took off, the 207-foot wide aircraft touched down at Payerne airfield just south of Bern, the Swiss capital. As pilot Andre Borschberg brought the Solar Impulse out of the sky at 9 a.m. (3 a.m. EST), a crew rushed to the landing strip to help stabilize the craft before its enormous wings scraped the ground.

Solar Impulse

Don't get too excited, though. We're a long way from solar-powered jumbo jets shuttling us across the oceans. For one, despite its absurd wingspan (only slightly shorter than a 747's), the cockpit of the Solar Impulse is only big enough to carry a single person. The rest of the body, made of incredibly light materials and with only minimal insulation, is reserved for the 12,000 solar cells required to charge up the batteries.

Still, it impressively demonstrates the capabilities of current eco-friendly power sources. [From: AP and PhysOrg, via: DVice]

Tags: aircraft, airplane, airplanes, eco-friendly, flight, solar, solar impulse, SolarImpulse, SolarPower, top, transportation