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July 12, 2013

Solar Impulse flight: Across the US, powered by the sun

The experimental airplane Solar Impulse completed its first flight across the United States this week. The Swiss-made plane, powered only by the sun, is the first to make the trip both day and night without using conventional fuel. It started the journey on May 3 in California and ended on July 6 in New York. Pilots and creators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg took turns manning the single-seat flyer, which is powered by about 12,000 silicon solar cells and has a wingspan of a jumbo jet. The next step is a trip around the world in 2015.- Leanne Burden Seidel (24 photos total)

Workers load a wing of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse into a Cargolux Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on February 20 at Payerne airport in Geneva. The Boeing will carry the Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype aircraft to San Francisco for a series of flights across the US from the West to East Coast. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Crew members return the Solar Impulse to its hangar following a test flight at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., April 19. The aircraft, made of carbon fiber sheets and powered by solar cells, will attempt to fly once around the world powered solely by solar energy. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters) #

A bird flies along with the Solar Impulse as it approaches the runway for a landing following a test flight at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., April 19. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters) #

The Solar Impulse glides over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco during a successful test flight on April 23. The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel. (Solar Impulse/Associated Press ) #

At Moffett Field in a hangar originally built to house airships, crew members of the Solar Impulse prepared the plane for it's upcoming cross country flight on April 26. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)#

Reporters gather before dawn as the Solar Impulse plane prepares to takeoff from Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. on May 3. The first-ever manned airplane that can fly by day or night on the Sun's power alone took off on the first leg of a trip across the United States. Solar Impulse, piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, left the runway in northern California at 6:12 am.(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)#

Pilot Bertrand Piccard sits in his cockpit before he took off in the Solar Impulse solar electric airplane at Moffett Field on May 3 in Mountain View, Calif. (Beck Diefenbach/Getty Images) #

The Solar Impulse aircraft takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission on May 3. The solar-powered airplane that developers hope to eventually pilot around the world took off early from San Francisco Bay on the first leg of an attempt to fly across the United States with no fuel but the sun's energy.(Stephen Lam/Reuters) #

The Solar Impulse flies from San Francisco Bay to Phoenix in on May 3. (Fred Merz/Solar Impulse via Reuters)#

Paul Johnson, of Tempe, Ariz., takes a photograph of Solar Impulse as he joins hundreds getting a glimpse of the aircraft, the first solar powered airplane, during a stop at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport during the Across America 2013 tour on May 7 in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press) #

Solar Impulse, piloted by Andre´ Borschberg, is pushed onto the tarmac prior to the second leg of the 2013 Across America mission, at dawn, May 22, at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. (Matt York/Associated Press) #

Solar Impulse, piloted by Andre´ Borschberg, takes flight during the second leg of the 2013 Across America mission, at dawn, May 22 from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. The solar powered aircraft is scheduled to land at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on May 23. (Matt York/Associated Press) #

Pilot Bertrand Piccard, pilot on the ground Andre´ Borschberg (L) and ground crew member Daniel Ramseier (R) confirm last preparations before take-off for the third leg of an Across America tour by Solar Impulse, a solar powered plane, in Dallas/Fort Worth on June 3. (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse via Reuters) #

Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane, is towed out of the tent onto the runway for its third leg of an Across America tour in Dallas Fort Worth on June 3. (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse via Reuters) #

The Solar Impulse sits in a specially made hangar tent at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on May 23. The plane, with a wingspan of 208 feet (as long as a Boeing 747), will be on display. (Rodger Mallison/Star-Telegram via Associated Press) #

Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, lands at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in St. Louis on June 4. The aircraft took off more than 20 hours before from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse via Reuters)#

Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, lands at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on June 4. To protect the aircraft upon landing, Solar Impulse uses its own inflatable hangar to park the aircraft. (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse via Reuters)#

Co-pilot Andre´ Borschberg watches as Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, lands at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va. on June 16. (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse via Reuters) #

Andre´ Borschberg, one of two pilots of the Solar Impulse plane is interviewed by a reporter on a ladder as he sits inside the cockpit of the solar powered plane during a media availability at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., on June 17. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press) #

The Solar Impulse prepares for take-off for its final leg of its flight across the USA from Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va, on July 6. The plane which is capable of flying day and night without fuel, powered only by solar energy, was headed to New York on the final leg of its journey across America that started May 3 in San Francisco.(Neils Ackerman/Solar Impulse via EPA)#

The solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse takes off on its final leg of its flight across the USA from Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va. on July 6. (Neils Ackerman/Solar Impulse via EPA) #

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA plane with Andre´ Borschberg onboard approaches JFK airport on late July 6 in New York. The experimental Solar Impulse plane, powered by the sun, completed a transcontinental trip across the United States late Saturday, touching down in New York despite a rip in the fabric of one wing.(Jean Revllard/Solar Imulse via AFP/Getty Images) #

The Solar Impulse lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with a tear in the wing fabric. The solar-powered airplane was on the final leg of its flight across the United States from Dulles International Airport near Washington when the tear was discovered forcing the plane to land several hours early. (Neils Ackerman/Solar Impulse via EPA)#

Solar Impulse Chairman and pilot Bertrand Piccard (L) and Solar Impulse CEO and pilot Andre Borschberg wave after Solar Impulse HB-SIA planes lands in JFK airport on late July 6 in New York. The experimental Solar Impulse plane, powered by the sun, completed a transcontinental trip across the United States, touching down in New York despite a rip in the fabric of one wing. (Fred Merz/ Solar Impulse via AFP/Getty Images ) #



 
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