The Solar Impulse 2 soared back into the the air early this morning on the last oceanic hurdle of its global flight, the Atlantic. The pokey but tough solar-powered plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2:30 a.m. local time and headed toward Seville, Spain, on a trip that should last four days.
Six hours later, Captain Bertrand Piccard guided the plane over Nantucket Island, his last sighting of North America. Not long before that, a tweet showed Piccard having his first breakfast on the Atlantic leg.
The goal of the Solar Impulse 2, which doesn't use fossil fuel or spew pollutants, is to demonstrate the potential of solar technology. The 5,500-pound plane, which travels about 47 miles per hour, is powered by 17,248 solar cells built on the wings. They convert sunlight into electricity to power the four electric engines and propellers.
"This is the first step of green aviation," Andre Borschberg, who alternates pilot duties with Piccard, told CNET during the plane's layover in Silicon Valley seven weeks ago. "Every leg is a challenge because every leg you discover something else."
Seville should be the penultimate stop on Solar Impulse 2's around-the-world flight, which will end in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The record-breaking trip began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi and proceeded relatively uneventfully until a battery problem forced Piccard to make a nine-month stopover in Hawaii.
Before departing New York, Solar Impulse had spent almost 390 hours in the air while flying 14 legs covering a distance of 18,540 miles (29,837km). You can follow the rest of the flight live online or get regular updates from the Solar Impulse Twitter feed.