Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane, tries to fly 24 hours

A solar-powered airplane, named the Solar Impulse, means to prove, once and for all, that harnessing the energy of the Sun is a good and practical idea. I mean, why would we try to capture some of the energy put out by a completely free nuclear reactor hanging in the sky? The plane took off from Switzerland a little bit ago, and will try to fly for 24 hours without stopping. Here’s hoping it’s a great success.

Should the flight prove successful it sure as heck will make the practice of drilling into the surface of the planet looking for a finite, and expensive to extract, power source seem awfully silly. “Hey, guys. You see that up there? It’s the Sun. It provides the energy that every single form of life on this planet needs to flourish. Why don’t we, I don’t know, try using some of that to power some of our odds and ends?”

But back to the airplane. Its maiden flight (voyage?) was back in April. This time the goal is to see if its solar cells (there’s 12,000 such cells) can power it for a single, nonstop 24-hour flight. It will fly at an altitude of 27,900 feet.

Being 2010 and all, you can follow the flight on Twitter, or, more interestingly, view a live video stream.