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Solar Plane's Pacific Marathon Puts Pilot to the Ultimate Endurance Test

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Google’s solar powered Internet drone may have just tanked in a desert, but other sun-powered fliers are still going strong, including the Solar Impulse plane, which has just taken off on a nearly 5,000 mile journey across the Pacific, from Nanjing, China, to Hawaii.

Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2. Image: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

Five days, five nights, and no breaks—the longest leg of Solar Impulse’s journey around the world is being called the “moment of truth” for one of the most promising solar planes. The real endurance test here doesn’t fall on the technology though, but rather, on Andre Borschberg, the man who will be piloting the craft throughout its 130-hour nonstop flight.


According to CNN, Borschberg will spend the entire trip inside the plane’s 3.8 square meter cockpit, strapped to a seat that doubles as a bed, exercise machine and toilet. He’ll only be able to nap for 20 minutes at a time, and only when there’s no air turbulence. Borschberg, along with pilot Bertrand Piccard, who will be flying an Atlantic leg of the journey later this year, has apparently received meditation and hypnosis training to help him maintain his concentration for un-humanly long stretches of time.


Borschberg will be well supplied, of course, with food, water and sports drinks. He’s also got a parachute, life raft, and oxygen bottles, just in case things go south and he’s gotta abandon ship in the middle of the sea.


You can keep up with Solar Impulse’s journey on Borschberg’s twitter. If Impulse manages to complete the trip on time and without any hiccups, it’ll certainly be a major step forward for solar aviation technology. If Borschberg exits the craft later this week with his sanity, we’ll know he’s more machine than man. [CNN]

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