Solar Impulse Makes History

Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane, has made history. Solar Impulse, which had its first flight last year, took off early Wednesday and remained in the air more than 24 hours later, becoming the first solar-powered plane to make it through the night non-stop.

Crew and supporters cheered as the plane buzzed through at around 7am Thursday, 25 hours since it took off, and prepared to land at the Payerne airbase. The single-seater plane, piloted by Andre Borschberg, was expected to land at around 8:30AM local time. Flight director Claude Nicollier said Borschberg was in high spirits despite being awake and alert since the plane took off at dawn on Wednesday.

The plane carries on its wings around 12,000 solar cells. Its first prototype was developed at the  École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland between 2006 and 2009. Solar Impulse had its first public appearance in June 2009 followed by its first-ever test flight on December 3 of the same year.

Developers are planning to come up with a bigger version of the current Solar Impulse by next year. The planned aircraft will have a pressurized cockpit and advanced avionics to allow long-haul flights.