Inside the record-breaking attempt at flying a solar-powered plane around the world

When Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg landed his aircraft in Hawaii on July 3 after flying it across the Pacific from Japan, he had already broken a world record.

Borschberg flew Solar Impulse 2, an aircraft fuelled solely by solar energy, across 5,000 miles in five-day non-stop journey — the longest solo flight ever.

That trip was part of a planned 12-leg odyssey that Borschberg and his co-pilot, Bertrand Piccard,
had envisioned for their iconic plane. But the final legs of the tri[ haven’t yet happened; the journey across the Pacific damaged the aircraft’s batteries so badly that the plane is grounded in Hawaii until 2016.

Here’s how the Solar Impulse 2 saga unfolded.

Equipped with 17,000 solar cells mounted on its massive wings, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March in the hope of flying nearly 22,000 miles around the world.

The plan was to make a round-the-world trip in 12 legs.

Solar Impulse landed in Muscat after the first 12-hour stint of its journey.

It went on to touch down in India, Myanmar and China, before setting off for Hawaii.

But even before it could reach Hawaii, poor weather dampened plans -- and an unscheduled landing in Japan added a 13th leg.

Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, but a body lighter than a large SUV.

The cockpit is kept unheated to save energy -- which means the pilots wear special thermal suits to stay warm.

The pilot seat serves as both a bed and a toilet.

Every morning during the journey, the Solar Impulse 2 climbed up to 28,000 feet to gather enough sunlight to last through the night.

Thanks to its massive wings and light weight, Solar Impulse 2 is very sensitive to strong winds.

So sensitive that gusts of wind damaged its wing shortly after it landed in Japan.

But it soon got back on its feet and crossed the Pacific to land in Hawaii after flying non-stop for five days -- and broke the world record for the longest solo flight.

Unfortunately, the trip fried the plane's batteries.

The damage is so bad that it will take almost a year for Solar Impulse 2 to get off the ground -- again.

When the plane is fixed, it will continue on its next leg to Arizona.

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