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Solar-Powered Plane Completes First International Flight

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A little more than one year after its maiden voyage, the Solar Impulse has successfully crossed international borders, reports Reuters.

The exclusively solar-powered plane flew its first international route from Western Switzerland to Brussels on Friday, marking another milestone in the search for pollution-free air travel. The aircraft, which uses 12,000 solar panels to generate power, has taken off five times since its inaugural flight in April 2010, including one 26-hour journey in July.

The project, which began in 2003, is easily one of the most ambitious of its kind. This year, the team plans to release a plane capable of flying across the Atlantic; as early as 2013, a solar-powered machine could make a trip around the world.

Even so, don’t expect sunbeam-powered planes to taxi at your local airport anytime soon: Traveling at 44 miles per hour, the Solar Impluse’s flight from Western Switzerland to Brussels took more than half a day; a fossil fuel-fed jet speeds up to 440 miles per hour and soars from Geneva to Brussels in less than one hour.

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