Solar Impulse 2
Solar Impulse set off from Abu Dhabi in March in a multi-leg attempt to fly around the world powered by the sun's energy alone (no fuel whatsoever). The project is meant to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies and renewable energy, and while SI2 has had a bit of a bumpy road, it’s performed remarkably. Why? Because it’s still going. Each bump in the road is giving engineers more insight into refining the solar technology that is making this flight possible.
The plane, with Swiss pilot André Borschberg at the controls, landed safely in Kalaeloa, Hawaii on July 3, completing the longest leg of the around-the-world journey and breaking the record for the world's longest nonstop solo flight. Unfortunately, a post-flight maintenance check turned up a debilitating mechanical issue. Overheating caused some irreversible damage to the plane’s batteries, so they must now wait for replacement parts before continuing with the last leg of the journey. There will be a 2-3 week delay...but Solar Impulse 2 will press on!
New Horizons: A Window to Pluto
Granted, this journey began 9.5 years ago and covers a distance of three billion miles, but that just makes it even more impressive! NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is at Pluto, making it the first space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. Anyone else hearing the Star Trek theme song in your head?
"The exploration of Pluto and its moons by New Horizons represents the capstone event to 50 years of planetary exploration by NASA and the United States," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Once again we have achieved a historic first. The United States is the first nation to reach Pluto, and with this mission has completed the initial survey of our solar system, a remarkable accomplishment that no other nation can match."
After sending some initial photos, the spacecraft is in data-gathering mode after its closest approach to Pluto. Scientists are waiting to find out whether New Horizons "phones home," (of course we need an ET reference) transmitting to Earth a series of status updates that indicate the spacecraft survived the flyby and is in good health.
New Horizons has reached its destination and once again sets the bar higher for exploration, technology, engineering, and just about everything else under the sun. We’ll say this for humankind...we reach for the stars.