Last night, at approximately 11:09 PM, co-pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg safely landed at JFK International Airport on a plane operated by nothing but solar energy.
New York was the final destination of a transcontinental journey that began in San Francisco, followed by Phoenix, then Dallas, then St. Louis, and then Washington, D.C.
Fueled by some 11,000 solar cells (most of which lie on the plane's unusually large wings), the flight from Washington Dulles Airport to JFK lasted 18 hours and 23 minutes. It soared at an altitude of 30,000 ft and at a top rate of 45 mph.
The flight is sponsored by an organization called Solar Impulse, whose principle campaign for the past few months has been to fly "Across America." Solar Impulse's mission is not just to engineer a plane that can operate on solar panels, but to show the untapped potential that solar energy has to affect the world.
The organization is very clear that "the aim of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg is not to revolutionize the aviation industry — it would be stupid and pretentious to even attempt this — but instead to use the power of this airborne symbol to help change people’s minds about renewable energies."
Piccard reinforces this sentiment, mentioning that "Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message." And he and Borschberg intend on heightening their initiatives to maximize press and educate the nation and the world about solar energy’s potential.
They hope to inspire the world to continue exploring alternatives, even if it isn't necessarily their technology. The organization writes: "Every one of its take-offs, propelled silently by its four electric motors, inspires us to consider using clean, new technologies to free our society, little by little, from dependence on fossil energy."
Borschberg and Piccard are planning a similar trip in 2015, but this time on an upgraded plane and around the world.