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There are frequent conflicts with Mission Control in Monaco—the team of engineers, meteorologists, and flight controllers who consider both Bertrand and André too ready to take risks.And weather is always a looming hazard; rain, humidity, crosswinds, and even sun-blocking clouds could easily doom the mission, while a sudden downdraft or updraft could break the aircraft apart.The result is an aircraft with a revolutionary design, powered by 17,000 solar cells, each as thin as a human hair, which collect and transform the sun’s rays into electricity, to be distributed to batteries for storage and to four 17-horsepower engines.The plane’s structure is lighter than many gliders with a wingspan equivalent to that of a 747.In the unpressurized cockpit, with no heat or cooling, temperatures inside range from -40°F at the highest altitudes to 104°F when they descend over parched deserts.Bertrand, heir to a family legacy of exploration, had previously set a record by flying a balloon around the world.Finally, and triumphantly, Bertrand lands the plane back in Abu Dhabi where the journey began, a testament to technological ingenuity and perseverance. Produced and directed by Noel Dockstader and Quinn Kanaly. The Director of the WGBH Science Unit and Senior Executive Producer of NOVA is Paula S. About PBSPBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content.
Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station.WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio (among them, ), a leader in educational multimedia (including PBS Learning Media™, providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content), and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences.In the new documentary, THE IMPOSSIBLE FLIGHT, NOVA, a production of WGBH Boston, embarks on an ambitious quest with two intrepid pilots and a team of brilliant engineers, meteorologists, and flight controllers as they design, construct, and fly around the world the first zero-fuel, solar-powered airplane., a two-hour special, premieres Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 9PM ET/8C on PBS (check local listings).“NOVA puts viewers in the cockpit for the adventure of a lifetime,” said Paula S. “In this breathtaking film, NOVA joins the fearless and intrepid individuals at the heart of the ambitious Solar Impulse project, the brainchild of explorer and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, joined by André Borschberg, a former fighter pilot in the Swiss Air Force and engineer with a graduate degree in management from MIT.
With the help of a diverse team of leading experts in aerospace engineering, meteorology, and flight control, these two daring adventurers create and fly an extraordinary and unique aircraft.
Everyone—pilots and the team at Mission Control—are prepared for the worst to happen, including aircraft failure and bailing out over the ocean, if necessary. National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.###About NOVANow in its 45th season, NOVA is the most-watched primetime science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly.