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Solar Impulse starts last flight of global odyssey

Image: Solar Impulse rollout
The Solar Impulse plane rolls out of its Cairo hangar for its flight to Abu Dhabi. (Credit: Solar Impulse)

The Swiss-built Solar Impulse 2 airplane rose into the skies over Cairo, Egypt, tonight to finish off its 16-month, 22,000-mile, fuel-free journey around the world.

The 17th and final leg of the odyssey began at 1:29 a.m. Sunday local time (4:29 p.m. PT Saturday). If the itinerary proceeds according to plan, the solar-powered plane should arrive about 48 hours later in Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse started out in March of last year.

This last flight had to be postponed for a week because the winds were too strong, and because the pilot – Swiss psychiatrist-adventurer Bertrand Piccard – wasn’t feeling well enough to take on the grueling flight. Tonight, Piccard said such setbacks just came with the territory.

“This is an adventure,” Piccard told reporters before takeoff at Cairo International Airport. “It’s not a business plan, it’s an adventure.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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