Solar Airplane Completes First Leg Of Cross-Country Flight

Solar Impulse, the solar airplane that was set to fly across the United States, has taken off and completed the first leg of the journey from California to Arizona. Averaging an altitude of just 10,000 feet and a speed of 40.6 miles per hour, the flight took most of a day to complete. Technically, 14,000 people were on board, albeit virtually via streaming video.

Launching the “Clean Generation” initiative by completing the first leg of their 2013 Across America mission, Pilot Bertrand Piccard took off from Moffett Airfield at NASA’s Ames Research Center early Saturday morning, arriving at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport 18 hours and 18 minutes later.

Promoting greater investment in technologies for sustainable energy production and use, Piccard and Solar Impulse co-founder André Borschberg will alternate flying the five legs of the trip.”We’ve been dreaming about crossing the United States for years – the land of scientific research, innovation and aviation pioneers – and it’s hard to believe it’s really happening.” said Borschberg and Piccard as they walked down the runway in Phoenix.

Coming up in mid-May, the second leg of the journey will fly from Phoenix to Dallas/Fort Worth before continuing on to St Louis then Washington, D.C., before completing the first crossing of the United States by a solar-powered airplane at New York’s JFK airport.

[Photo credit – Solar Impulse]

Interstellar travel dreams wanted

Have you ever thought or dreamed of what it might be like traveling to distant planets, perhaps in a different solar system? If so, the people that might very well make that happen in the next 100 years or so want your ideas.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA’s Ames Research Center will host the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium in Orlando, Florida from September 30 to October 2. They hope to discuss “the practical and fantastic issues man needs to address to achieve interstellar flight one hundred years from now,” the agencies told PCMag.

That’s where you come in.

“This won’t just be another space technology conference-we’re hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we’re thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight,” David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA, said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming and innovation.”
The conference has been divided into different topics and proposals can relate to those topics or cover a completely new topic. Choose from time-distance solutions; education, social, economic, and legal considerations; philosophical and religious considerations; biology and space medicine; habitats and environmental science; destinations; and communication of the vision.

“The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider “why not” and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight” says DARPA on the symposium website.

Think this is a silly idea? NASA and DARPA remind us that in 1865, author Jules Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon, a story of sending humans to the moon. About 100 years later, that happened.