A solar-powered airplane embarked on the first leg of an ambitious cross-country flight this morning (May 3), and viewers at home can get a taste of the adventure by following along on the historic journey.
The aircraft, named Solar Impulse, will cross the United States in five flights, all without using a single drop of fuel. The ultra-lightweight plane is the first to be able to fly day and night using only solar and battery power, company officials have said.
Solar Impulse is providing live streaming video (above) during each leg of the journey. The video feed features maps, camera views inside the cockpit, and information about the plane's position, altitude and speed.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, Swiss pilots and co-founders of Solar Impulse, will alternate piloting the single-seater plane over the five legs of the cross-country journey.
Solar Impulse departed this morning from Moffett Airfield near San Francisco, Calif., at 9:12 a.m. EDT (6:12 a.m. PDT) with Piccard at the controls. The plane is heading south and is expected to land at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport on Saturday (May 4) at 4:00 a.m. EDT (1:00 a.m. PDT), after 19 hours in the air.
The second leg of the expedition will kick off in mid-May, with a flight from Phoenix to Dallas, Tex. At the end of May, Solar Impulse will fly to St. Louis, Mo., followed by a trip to Washington, D.C., before the cross-country jaunt wraps up in New York City in late June or early July.
The coast-to-coast flight is designed to promote "clean technologies," as a source of renewable energy.
Solar Impulse's frame is made of carbon-fiber, and the aircraft weighs about the same as a station wagon, company officials said. The plane, which generates about the same amount of power as a small scooter, has distinctive solar panel-covered wings that stretch roughly the same length as a 747 jetliner.
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Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for Space.com, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.