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Gallery: Solar airplane takes off

Solar Impulse successfully completed a big step towards its goal of making the first solar-powered aircraft to circle the globe.
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By Andy Smith on
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1 of 19 Andy Smith/ZDNet
Solar Impulse successfully completed a big step towards its goal of making the first solar-powered aircraft to circle the globe while burning no fuel and creating no pollution.

The Solar Impulse-HB-SIA leaves the ground off the Payerne airfield in Switzerland.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The crowd watches the HB-SIA as it prepared for takeoff.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The HB-SIA got a running escort as it taxied down the runway.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The solar-powered plane soared 1,200 meters (almost 4,000 feet) above the Earth in its 87 minute maiden voyage.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The HB-SIA and its source of energy.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The HB-SIA coming in for a landing.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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Solar panels can be seen on top of the wings in this earlier demonstration.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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In order to keep the plane light, the cockpit was built to take up as little space as possible.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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"This first flight was for me a very intense moment! The HB-SIA behaved just as the flight simulator told us! Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft's controllability matches our expectations!" said Solar Impulse test pilot Markus Scherdel upon stepping down from the aircraft.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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A side view of the cockpit.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The tail.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The instrument panel in the cockpit.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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More of the instrument panel.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The founders of the project are former fighter pilot and CEO of Solar Impulse André Borschberg (left front), and Bertrand Picard (right front), a psychiatrist and the first man to circle the globe in a hot air balloon.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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Congratulating the pilot.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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Here's the formal image of Solar Impulse's plane.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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Solar Impulse's first computer-generated models looks quite different for the test model.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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The Solar Impulse team celebrates their triumph.

Credit: Solar Impulse

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Another historic first flight took place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where the Wright brothers made the first engine-powered flight.

Credit: United States Library of Congress

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