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Solar Impulse Ends Cross-Country Flight With Tiny Little 8-Ft Wing Gash

Illustration for article titled Solar Impulse Ends Cross-Country Flight With Tiny Little 8-Ft Wing Gash

It took two months for Solar Impulse, the little solar-powered plane that could, to make it from Washington state to New York's JFK airport. Two months of 45mph speeds, multiple stopovers, and cursing at clouds. But after surviving all that time and distance, the flight's triumphant finale was cut short by a torn wing.

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Late night, an eight-foot tear in the underside of the Solar Impulse prompted the plane to land at 11 pm last night, instead of the originally scheduled Sunday morning touchdown. The only casualty was a planned Statue of Liberty photo op. And getting there a little earlier didn't change the fact that Solar Impulse is now the first solar-powered plane had made it all the way across the US.

Fueled by approximate 12,000 solar cells installed on its wings, and 800 pounds' worth of batteries to store the excess power, the sun-soaked Swiss sailor will be seeking even bigger fish in the future; its next planned flight will take it around the globe in 2015. Hopefully they'll be packing plenty of duct tape.

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Image credit: Solar Impulse

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A friend and I saw the Solar Impulse when it visited the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy center in Virginia. Having previously met his Breitling Orbiter co-pilot Brian Jones, pilot Betrand Piccard was kind enough to invite us behind the crowd barrier, chat with us for about ten minutes, and add his autograph to Brian's on their book; we were literally under the wing of the Solar Impulse. Betrand is a totally great guy.