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First Cross-Country Solar-Fueled Flight Takes Off

Pilots to undergo amazing physical feat of endurance
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2013 10:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – A solar-powered plane took off this morning for what will be the first exclusively sun-fueled cross-country flight. The Solar Impulse left a California airfield at 6am, and should ultimately land in Washington by mid-June, with five stops along the way, the Washington Post reports. It's the first solar-powered plane that can fly at night, but it comes with some daunting limitations: Its engines only put out 10 horsepower, it cruises at just 43mph, and it can't fly through clouds or take off or land in windy conditions.

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The pilot, meanwhile, will be performing an impressive feat himself. The cockpit isn't pressurized or temperature-controlled, and it's the size of, in pilot and project co-founder Andre Borschberg's words, a "bad economy seat." Borschberg relies on meditation and advanced breathing techniques to endure the extreme heat and cold and stay focused; the plane's other pilot, co-founder Bertrand Piccard, uses self-hypnosis. (Read more Solar Impulse stories.)

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