A team trying to fly a solar-powered plane around the world said today it is suspending the journey in Hawaii after the plane suffered battery damage during its record-breaking flight to the islands. The Solar Impulse team said in a news release that it will continue the attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but irreversible damage caused by overheating batteries has grounded the flight until at least April. The batteries aboard Solar Impulse 2 overheated on the first day of its trip from Japan to Hawaii, and there was no way to cool down the system, the team said. There was reportedly no weakness with the technology, but the team didn't anticipate temperature fluctuations associated with rapid altitude changes in a tropical climate.
"While Solar Impulse has completed eight legs, covering nearly half of the journey, setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits," the pilots said in a statement. The airplane will be housed in a University of Hawaii hangar at the Kalaeloa airport on Oahu while repairs are made. The team says it will also research and test other cooling methods to prevent more overheating. The wings of Solar Impulse 2, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane ran on stored energy at night. Its next stop was to be Phoenix. (Read more Solar Impulse stories.)