July 25 – Last Leg To Stand On

Today’s factismal: The Solar Impulse II is on its last leg of an around-the-world flight.

All too often we forget that the future is happening now but it started long ago. For one example of that, I point you to the Solar Impulse II. This amazing aircraft is designed to take off, fly, and land using nothing but the solar power it harvests with the solar cells on its wings. Though it will never be able to carry anything other than two pilots and a very minimal cargo, the airplane will demonstrate that we have only begun to tap into what can be accomplished.

And what can be accomplished? Lots! Right now, the solar powered airplane is on the last leg of its around-the-world flight that started on March 9, 2015. It has already set several records, including longest flight by a solar-powered airplane (4,819 nmi from Japan to Hawai’i) and the longest non-stop solo flight without refueling (Japan to Hawai’i again). More importantly, it has shown that we can do a lot more with solar power and other alternative energy sources. When it touches down in Abu Dhabi next month, this plane will become the first solar powered plane to circumnavigate the globe.

The Solar Impulse in flight (Image courtesy Solar Impulse)

The HB-SIA in flight
(Image courtesy Solar Impulse)

But where and when did this airplane start? (Other than last March in Abu Dhabi.) Perhaps we should point our fingers at Elmer Johnson, who was awarded US patent 3,089,670 for a solar-powered aircraft on May 14, 1963. But Elmer points his finger at others (including one gentleman who wanted to build a solar-powered flying saucer). And, if we follow the line of patents far enough back, we’ll find ourselves looking at a certain patent clerk by the name of Albert Einstein who first deduced how solar power cells work back in 1915.

If you’d like to spend some time looking forward, then why not check out the Solar Impulse?

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