On July 7, 1981, Solar Challenger became the first solar-powered aircraft to fly across the English Channel. After being delayed for weeks, clear skies allowed Solar Challenger to complete the 266-kilometer (165-mile) journey from Paris, France, to Manston, England, in five and a half hours. Powered by two small electric motors and more than 16,000 solar cells, the lightweight aircraft converted solar energy into the power necessary for the flight.

While he did not think that solar-powered aircraft would be widely used, Paul MacCready, the engineer of Solar Challenger, designed the plane to challenge the idea of reliance on fossil fuels. Technology from Solar Challenger was later explored in the solar-powered Pathfinder and Helios aircraft, which MacCready’s company developed with NASA as “atmospheric satellites.”

convert
Verb

to change from one thing to another.

convert
Verb

to change from one thing to another.

engineer
Noun

person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

engineer
Noun

person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

fossil fuel
Noun

coal, oil, or natural gas. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals.

fossil fuel
Noun

coal, oil, or natural gas. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals.

reliance
Noun

dependence.

reliance
Noun

dependence.

satellite
Noun

object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or made by people.

satellite
Noun

object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or made by people.

Noun

radiation from the sun.

Noun

radiation from the sun.

technology
Noun

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

technology
Noun

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

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