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article imageSolar Impulse 2 starts its epic five-day journey to Hawaii

By Karen Graham     May 30, 2015 in Science
Solar Impulse 2 took off from Nanjing, China at 2:39 p.m. ET, on a grueling, 5,079-mile, five-day flight to Hawaii. This is the seventh-leg of its around the world journey.
Andre Borschberg tweeted right before take off, “I feel confident about this flight from Nanjing to Hawaii. It will be the flight of my life."
Good weather is a must for this leg of the flight because there are no islands with alternative airports, and any mishap means ditching the electric airplane in the ocean. Not only that, but the Solar Impulse is not very comfortable. Borschberg will be living in a cramped 3.8 cubic meter, or roughly 134 cubic-foot cockpit, for 130 hours or so.
Solar Impulse 2 took off at 6:39 p.m. UTC on  the 7th leg of its trip around the world.
Solar Impulse 2 took off at 6:39 p.m. UTC on the 7th leg of its trip around the world.
Solar Impulse 2
Borschberg will not be able to stand up straight in the cockpit, but the pilot's seat does recline so that he can lie in a horizontal position. He told Fox News by telephone he plans to sleep for 20 minutes at a time, about eight times a day.
“I will use meditation and breathing techniques to calm down and sleep,” he said. He added, “20 minutes is the maximum I can allow myself, to allow the airplane to fly by itself – we have a sort of autopilot – it’s a stabilization system.”
The China to Hawaii leg is the longest stretch of the around-the-world trip that started in March with a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Oman. After reaching Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 will continue on to Phoenix, Arizona, with Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse's chairman, and a pilot himself, at the controls for the 3,106 mile eight leg of the trip.
The biggest challenge for Solar Impulse 2 is energy. This means the plane will have to fly at an elevation of around 29,500 feet during the day to recharge the solar batteries and store energy, coming back down to about 3,000 feet in elevation at night. Borschberg will be experiencing a wide range of temperatures, from 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning to minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit in the early evening while he is still at a higher elevation. The plane will be flying between 30 and 60 miles per hour.
Five days worth of food and water.
Five days worth of food and water.
Solar Impulse 2
On the subject of food and water, the airplane is well stocked. Borschberg has loaded up with 2.5 kilos of food and 3.5 liters of water per day for the flight across the pacific. There are even provisions for, ahem, going to the little boy's room. A toilet is built into the pilot's seat.
Piccard says Borschberg will no doubt employ it during the estimated five-day flight. "The team is always teasing me with this, yeah, it's a big first." He added, "Up until now such waste has been kept on-board but during the Pacific crossing it will be jettisoned over the ocean in biodegradable bags."
“Good flight to Hawaii, @andreborschberg my solar brother ! Enjoy every moment of it !” tweeted Piccard on Saturday. “It will be experimental and unique,” he noted, in another tweet.
Solar Impulse 2 on tour
Solar Impulse 2 on tour
Adrian Leung, AFP
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